1.Keep the offense balanced
Early in the year the Miami Dolphins threw the ball almost 70% of the time, but with Dan Campbell now in charge he has restored the run game to the forefront of the offense. Coming off a game where Ryan Tannehill set an NFL record with 25 straight completions, it will be tempting to air it out the following week, but Bill Lazor needs to keep feeding Lamar Miller the ball. Tannehill’s success last week was in large part due to the change in play calling. Instead of passing the ball early and often the Dolphins set up the play action and gave Tannehill a more manageable down and distance with a steady regiment of Lamar Miller runs off the zone read. Establishing the run is always vital against the Patriots, because of the complicated blitz and zone schemes the Patriots love to use on obvious passing downs. The Patriots have an incredible athletic and cerebral front seven with Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich, Don’t’a Hightower, etc so making them respect the run will keep them out of the passing lanes or rushing off the edge. Establishing the run early and not abandoning it throughout the game is also critical in the battle for time of possession. Whenever you’re lining up against Tom Brady, every possession is critical and keeping him and that offense on the sideline as much as possible gives you the best chance to pull out a victory.
2) Bring pressure with four.
The key to neutralizing Tom Brady is bringing pressure in his face without taking people out of coverage on blitzes. The New York Giants in the their two Super Bowl victories against the Patriots perfectly demonstrated how to disrupt Brady by collapsing his pocket and not giving him a platform to throw from by dominating the offensive line with four defensive linemen. Tom Brady is too effective at getting the ball out quickly against a blitz, and covering Gronkoswki and Edelman is a tough enough task by itself without taking people out of coverage to blitz. If any team in the NFL has the front linemen to bring this kind of pressure it is the Miami Dolphins. In order to stop the Patriots offensive attack the Dolphins will need dominating performances from Suh, Vernon, and Wake. The Dolphins also need to account for the running back of the day that the Patriots chose to use. Whether it be Lagarette Blount, James White, or Dion Lewis the front line needs to not only pressure Brady, but clog up the running lanes early to keep them from establishing a running game.
3. Keep things simple.
The beauty of what Dan Campbell has brought to this Miami team is that they simplified the playbook offensively and defensively and allowed this talented roster to just go out and be physical and compete. The offense especially has benefited from this simplification. Instead of holding the ball waiting for long developing routes to become open, Tannehill is getting the ball out of his hand quickly. The offense is now centered around a running game and quick reads for Tannehill to make. With the use of these short routes and screens he is able to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers i.e. Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry in space and they in turned their opportunities into huge plays. When you play the Patriots its easy to get into your own head and try and out maneuver them because they are so cunning, but the best way for the Dolphins to compete is to continue the fundamental and physical style of play they have demonstrated the last few weeks, and not try to do too much to beat the hated Patriots, because that is playing right into their hand.