Having reached the midpoint of their season at a disappointing 3-5, the Miami Dolphins come home to face a woeful Tampa Bay team coming off its first win of the season.
Don't tell Dolphins coach Tony Sparano about the quality of his first-half opposition or how his team has fared decently against a succession of Pro Bowl-level quarterbacks in facing the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
"That's the last thing I want to hear," Sparano said after Sunday's 27-17 loss at New England. "Close in this game just don't get it."
Sparano wants to see a much-improved pass rush after the Dolphins gave Brady entirely too much time in the pocket to pick out receivers en route to a 332-yard day on 25-of-37 passing.
"We didn't get enough pass rush," Sparano said after watching his team sack Brady just twice. "I think some of the situations out there had a lot to do with that. ... You're asking guys to hold up for a long period of time."
Veteran pass rushers Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, in particular, were neutralized by a Patriots offensive line missing its starting left tackle, Matt Light, and starting a rookie, Sebastian Vollmer, in his place. Even after the Patriots lost their starting center, Dan Koppen, to injury early in the second half, the Dolphins weren't able to generate much pressure.
That should change against Tampa Bay, which is starting rookie quarterback Josh Freeman. Then again, Freeman was sacked just once by the Packers in the Bucs' 38-28 upset, while Aaron Rodgers went down six times.
The Bucs have allowed just 15 sacks this season, which is middle of the pack in the NFL.
The Dolphins have 21 sacks and entered Sunday's play sixth in the NFL. However, Porter, who has battled a hamstring problem this season, has just 2.5 sacks and is on pace to finish with just five, which would match his career-low since he became a starter with Pittsburgh in 2003.
"We need to have more pressure on the quarterback," Sparano said. "However you want to write it, you write it. You've got to be able to win some of these deals. You've got to win some of these five-man rush situations, four-man rush situations. We've got to do a better job of getting pressure on the passer-period."
LINEUP WATCH: Veteran reserve inside linebacker Reggie Torbor made his second straight start in place of Channing Crowder (shoulder). Torbor, a member of the New York Giants team that upset the 2007 Patriots in the Super Bowl, made six tackles and added a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss. If Crowder isn't healthy in time for the Tampa Bay game, Torbor could make a third straight start.
TRENDING: For the third straight week, the Wildcat offense had it struggles. Sunday against the Patriots, on the same field where the Dolphins re-introduced the throwback attack to the NFL on Sept. 21, 2008, the Dolphins ran a total of 10 Wildcat plays with Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown at the controls and netted just 7 yards and a touchdown. Eight additional plays with Pat White working out of the spread offense gained 60 yards, including a 33-yard gain on White's first run of the day.
--OLB Cameron Wake has had a hard time getting on the field beyond special teams, but he was the most effective of the Dolphins' linebackers at getting to Tom Brady on Sunday. Wake had one of two Dolphins sacks on Brady and added two of their seven hits on the Patriots start.
--NT Jason Ferguson, who turns 35 later this month, missed his first game as a Dolphin after making 24 consecutive starts since being acquired from Dallas in a draft-day trade in 2008. Ferguson was out with an elbow injury after suffering previous problems with his foot.
--LB J.D. Folsom made his NFL regular-season debut against the Patriots after being added to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Saturday. Folsom, a seventh-round pick from Weber State, took the place of journeyman William Kershaw, who was waived, and made one tackle on special teams.
--DB Nate Jones had primary coverage responsibilities in the slot on Wes Welker and helped limit his yards after catch, although Welker still made a team-high nine catches for 84 yards. Jones finished with nine tackles.
--CB Vontae Davis made his second career interception by out-leaping Randy Moss on a pass in the first quarter, but Moss later burned him for a 71-yard TD pass on a short crossing route Moss was able to turn upfield. Davis played through an injury to his right quadriceps that caused him to miss two series in the second quarter.
Hot Topic: Official Game 8 Thread: Dolphins vs Patriots