Patriots - Dolphins: Keys To The Game

What are the key matchups? Who will give the Patriots the biggest challenge. What can the Dolphins do to beat the Patriots? Rich Lyons takes on these questions in his weekly keys to the game. Keys for both teams including the top matchup to watch.

Matchup Of The Game:
Ronnie Brown vs. Patriots’ Front Seven

Last week, while Dallas did not run very often, when they did, they were extremely effective. It looked like the Pats would be missing two or three tackles on every single running play, but had a lead for basically the entire game, which forced Dallas to go through the air. This week, Richard Seymour is scheduled to come back and play. His effectiveness is unknown, but what can be said is that these guys are a whole lot better when he is in the lineup. Miami doesn’t have the best line, but they are solid, and they will test the Patriot resolve. Unlike Dallas, Miami clearly likes to keep things simple and go to Brown as much as they can both on the ground and passing to him out of the backfield. Roosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas, the two outside linebackers, are going to have to watch out for this all game long. While Lemon is susceptible to the occasional sack, he can be elusive, and when he can escape pressure, it leaves the secondary and the linebackers in coverage exposed. If the Patriots are planning on a blowout, they need to keep Brown in check. Last year, then-Dolphin Sammy Morris ran for 123 yards and a score. I would not be surprised if Brown was able to duplicate those numbers.

Key Injuries:

New England:

Randall Gay: Questionable (thigh)
Laurence Maroney: Questionable (groin)
• Sammy Morris: Out (chest)
• Benjamin Watson: Questionable (ankle)
• Adalius Thomas: Questionable (ankle)
• Donte’ Stallworth: Questionable (knee)

Miami:

Trent Green: Out (concussion)
Vonnie Holliday: Out (ankle)
Travares Tillman: Out (knee)
David Martin: Probable (ankle)
Zach Thomas: Probable (toe)

New England Keys To Victory:

1. Turnover Margin: Last year, the Pats did themselves in by fumbling four times, losing three of them. To eliminate any chance the Dolphins may have in this game, the Patriots cannot give Miami any cheap points by turning the ball over in their own territory, and set the Dolphins up with a short field.

2. Stop The Run: While it will be really hard to totally “stop” the run, the Pats need to at least contain Ronnie Brown. If they allow him to do his usual damage of 100 yards and over five yards a carry, the Dolphins will be able to control the pace of the game, which does not bode well for the Pats, especially considering this team is very hungry for their first win, and have shown that they can put up a lot of points given the right opportunities.

3. Move The Ball On The Miami Secondary: The Pats have the #1 passing offense in the league, and considering both Maroney and Morris could be out for this one, New England will have to rely on Tom Brady more than ever. While Miami is bad against the run, and they have the sixth best pass defense in yards, they are 29th in yards per attempt, 29th in opposing QB rating, and 30th in interceptions, meaning that the front seven does most of the damage for the secondary. If the Pats’ line can slow the impending pass rush, Brady should be able to put up big numbers in Miami.

Miami Keys To Victory:

1. Constant Pressure On Brady: This was how they won the game last year. The defense got to Patriot quarterbacks five times in that game. They seemed to be in Brady’s face all game long, and had just a few seconds to drop back and find a receiver. Brady was 12 of 25 for just 78 yards. If Jason Taylor does what he did last year, and if Zach Thomas can play the way he always has against New England, Miami could force some turnovers, and have a real shot at winning this game.

2. Ronnie Brown All Day Long: Once the Dolphins traded away Chris Chambers, Brown has become the Dolphins’ only big-play guy. He does it on the ground, and he does it catching the ball as well. The Patriot defense looked dreadful in the meaningful parts of last week’s game against Dallas’ running attack, so if Miami can control that aspect, Cleo Lemon could open it up and throw to Ted Ginn or Marty Booker in single coverage.

3. History: It seems that no matter how well the Patriots are playing, they have an incredibly tough time playing in Miami. Maybe it’s the humidity, maybe it’s the defense, but the Pats have never seemed right playing the Dolphins in Florida, while the same can be said about Miami playing up in Foxboro. Sure, the Patriots have looked unstoppable, but this could be a letdown game after playing Dallas, and hosting the Redskins next week. If they overlook the Dolphins, their perfect season may come to a screeching halt.

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