Miami cornerbacks Patrick Surtain (4) and Sam Madison (2) have combined for six interceptions and Surtain leads the AFC in that category. "Those two guys are playmakers," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "They jump routes and undercut routes because they know the pass rush is good and they know where their help is. You have to be careful every time you throw because they can take it to the house."
Won't be taking Taylor lightly
One of the constants when New England visits Miami is Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who always seems to make a big play in the game. He has only 1.5 sacks this season, second to teammate Adewale Ogunleye, who has five. "That surprises me," Belichick said of Taylor's sack total. "I'd say that's misleading. He's putting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks and batting balls."
Left tackle Matt Light is the player assigned to slow Taylor's rush and it's something he hasn't done so well in Miami. Since 2001 when Light took over as the Patriots left tackle, Taylor has 9 tackles, 3 sacks for minus-25 yards, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries in the Miami meetings. In Foxborough, Taylor has just 8 tackles with no sacks, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries and one pass defensed.
"He has a great game," Light said. "He brings his A game every Sunday. He has a lot of speed and strength. He's a different player down there than he is up here. He's fast up here too, but he has a lot of people cheering down there and I can't hear (anything). It's tough to play in that atmosphere when you're facing a guy like Jason Taylor. He can be half way up the field before you move."
When asked if he's found a comfort zone playing against Taylor, Light replied, "There's not a whole lot of comfort with Jason. That's the way it is. I don't think there is an offensive lineman out there that would say they're comfortable going against the guy because he does a lot of things really well."
Sunday's game will mark the first time former Charger and current Patriots safety Rodney Harrison will play against former teammate Junior Seau, who signed with Miami this past offseason after being cut by the Chargers. Harrison and Seau played nine seasons together in San Diego.
"It's going to be different," Harrison said. "I always thought he'd end his career in San Diego. But most guys don't finish their career with the same team anymore."
While Harrison wasn't as decorated a player as Seau, he did play in two Pro Bowls as a Charger and he also was let go by the team. He then came to New England and saw the Patriots part with Lawyer Milloy. So he knows first hand how difficult it is for a player to play his whole career with one team.
4-3 or 3-4?
Defensively, it's anyone's guess as to what front the Patriots will feature this week. They played a 4-3 against Washington and Tennessee and then changed to a 3-4 for the Giants game. They always play some of both, but Bill Belichick and his players do an amazing job keeping the plan under wraps. Rookie Ty Warren will start on the nose if the Patriots play a 3-4 with Richard Seymour and Bobby Hamilton on the ends. If it's a 4-3, Warren will start inside next to Seymour with Hamilton and Jarvis Green on the ends. Matt Chatham will be the fourth linebacker in a 3-4 and will rotate with Willie McGinest in a 4-3 beside Tedy Bruschi and Roman Phifer.
As for the secondary, it's expected that New England will feature man-to-man coverage and sell out to stop Ricky Williams. They will have to win third down to keep Williams from getting too many carries regardless of his production. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots defend tight end Randy McMichael. Last week, Rodney Harrison saw most of Jeremy Shockey, but Harrison could be committed to run defense. The Patriots could use a corner on McMichael in nickel situations, but with Miami's running attack, cannot afford to use an extra defensive back on early downs.
Getting the run going
Offensively, the Patriots will try to establish the run by spreading out the Dolphins and using Kevin Faulk on some delays, counters and traps while mixing in a short passing attack. They will use a lot of three-wide formations and try to exploit nickel back Terrell Buckley while using Faulk out of the backfield against the linebackers. New England will have a hard time running to the perimeter because the interior offensive linemen will have a difficult time getting through Tim Bowens and Larry Chester to block the pursuing linebackers.
The Patriots tried to run it early last year in Miami and failed miserably. Expect them to use the spread formation to try to get the passing attack going early, which will put pressure on the offensive line to protect Tom Brady. They will have to mix it up early to keep the pass as an option. They will look to use Miami's speed and aggressiveness against it.
Faulk rushed for a career-high 87 yards on 14 carries last week against the Giants. With Antowain Smith still ailing from a shoulder injury suffered two weeks ago against the Titans, Faulk will handle the lead back chores as well as any third down back duties since third down fullback Larry Centers is doubtful with a knee injury suffered against the Giants. Faulk had a big game against Miami last December, rushing just eight times for 53 yards while catching a team high nine passes for 70 yards.
The Patriots yards per carry rushing average through six weeks is 4.1, the first it has been 4 yards or more since 1985, a span of 18 years - the longest such streak in the NFL.