Patriots-Dolphins: What They Have To Do

The New England Patriots can clinch a playoff spot today with a win in Miami, but wins in Miami always seem hard to get. Dolphins Insider Alain Poupart shares three things the Patriots have to do to win. Also inside: What the Dolphins can do to New England to pull off the upset. Inside look at both teams. Editor Alain Poupart participated in this week's What They Have To Do To Win On Sunday

What the Dolphins have to do to win...
By Jon Scott, Patriots Insider

1. Pressure Tom Brady.
It's pretty simple and the Dolphins have been successful doing it in the past. When teams pressure Brady into hurrying his passes whether through straight up pressure or blitzes, his communication breaks down, especially with his relatively new receivers. If Miami can disguise its protections and who is blitzing, that has worked well to stifle Brady and the Patriots offense.

2. Load up against the run.
The Patriots had a tough time grinding out yards against stout defenses this year. Even teams that supposedly had poor run defenses were able to hold the Patriots ground game in check. The ability to stuff the Patriots running attack puts additional pressure on Tom Brady and crew to find ways to manufacture first downs using tight ends and screen passes. If the Dolphins run defense can hold Dillon, Maroney and crew in check, they're going to get some favorable matchups in the passing game and should be able to make things happen with their defense possibly a turnover or big play (sack)

3. Make a few big plays.
New England has been susceptible to big plays on offense, defense and special teams. Miami will need a few key big plays from each unit if they want to beat New England.

Special Teams: Opponents' special team units have done well in the return game against the Patriots. New England's kick coverage has allowed teams to start at the 30 or better all too often. Miami will need field position to score, and they can get it quickly with one big return.

On Offense: The Dolphins only need to try to get the ball deep to Chris Chambers or Wes Welker. The Patriots secondary has given up far too many deep balls or big penalties at the wrong time allowing opponents to get into scoring position with one big play. And

On Defense: The Patriots are prone to have turnovers. Whether its fumbles or interceptions, opposing defenses have been able to create turnovers to disrupt the Patriots at the worst times. Even Detroit got in on the act with a safety last week.


What the Patriots have to do to win ...
By Alain Poupart, Dolphin Digest Editor

Here's what the Patriots have to do to beat the Dolphins on Sunday:

1. Capitalize on the one or two ill-advised throws Joey Harrington is likely to make.
The Dolphins don't figure to have much success running the ball against the Pats, which means it will be up to Joey Harrington and the passing game to put points on the board. Harrington figures to put up decent numbers on Sunday, particularly with Chris Chambers coming off his first 100-yard game of the season, but Harrington's pattern has been that he invariably will throw at least a couple of passes up for grabs. Two big interceptions were the difference in the first meeting between these teams, and the Patriots need to make the interception again when they get chances on Sunday.

2. Make sure Jason Taylor gets blocked.
Taylor has a ridiculous seven forced fumbles this season, to go along with his two interception return for touchdowns. He clearly is the one guy on the Dolphins who can single-handedly decide the outcome. He's particularly dangerous rushing from the quarterback's blind side, which means Tom Brady will have to be aware of him if Taylor gets by his blocker.

3. Throw the ball downfield.
The way to beat the Dolphins defense is to take advantage of the secondary, which is much improved over early in the season but still vulnerable. It's also a pretty high-reward/low-risk proposition because the Dolphins cornerback just don't have very good ball skills and don't intercept many passes. So almost invariably, the worst-case scenario for an opponent throwing deep is an incomplete pass.

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