Seize the Moment, Miami

This Sunday, the Dolphins have a chance to post a statement win over the injury-depleted Patriots, the type that truly signals a turning point for a new regime. Now, Ryan Tannehill and company have to finally deliver

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·
The Dolphins have lost seven straight games to the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The Dolphins have lost seven straight games to the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

For the Dolphins, it’s now or never. If they can’t beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady Sunday, they might as well pack up until the B&B Boys retire.

The opportunity for a signature win, the kind that signals a regime has arrived, doesn’t come any better than this. At 7-6, the Dolphins need a victory—regardless of the opponent—to stay in the race for their first playoff berth with Brady healthy since the Patriots won their first Super Bowl under Belichick in 2001.

The Dolphins are at home, so we don’t have the whole frozen fish scenario if the game was at New England. Miami has righted the ship after losing three of four during the whole Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito mess, winning three of their last four games—two on the road—with the lone loss coming to Carolina, which also beat the Patriots.

The Dolphins, for December football, are relatively healthy. Sure, they had to place two cornerbacks, Dimitri Patterson (starter) and R.J. Stanford, on injured reserve this week, joining tight end Dustin Keller and receiver Brandon Gibson, but Miami is the picture of health compared to the Patriots.

With superlative tight end Rob Gronkowski lost for the season, and rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins battling injuries, the Patriots’ passing game is left with just two talented players, receiver Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen, for the Dolphins to concentrate on. Receiver Danny Amendola would be on this list, but it’s clear he’s not near 100 percent gutting out a groin injury. Stevan Ridley is certainly a talented running back, but the Patriots are starting to feel the effect of losing their best-performing offensive lineman, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. The offensive line has underperformed all season.

On defense, the Patriots don’t have tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, and linebacker Jerod Mayo. In the secondary, cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (knee) and Kyle Arrington (groin), and safety Steve Gregory (finger) are all playing beat up. All of it shows. The Patriots can’t stop the run, and they’re having a hard time rushing the passer since there’s no one to garner attention on the inside. The Patriots would probably like to pressure more, but the state of the secondary makes that an uneasy proposition.

There are no excuses for the Dolphins Sunday. The Patriots are ripe for the taking. Get it done, or you’re no better than the Texans and Browns, who had their chance to pummel the Patriots and instead got beat.

“It’s time,” coach Joe Philbin said this week. “There’s nothing to wait for. It’s time to play a complete game and play as well as we can.” He was talking about December football, but he might as well have been talking about this one game, against an opponent that has beaten them seven straight times and in 14 of the last 19.

Oh, it is most definitely time.

It’s time for the Dolphins not to be shutout 24-0 in the second half like they were on Oct. 27 after taking a 17-3 halftime lead at New England. And that goes for both the offense, defense and special teams. These were Miami’s second-half possessions: missed field goal, fumble, punt, punt, interception, blocked field goal and interception. Talk about a colossal choke.

Sunday Slate

There is no replacing Gronk, but there is still life after the All Pro tight end. Andy Benoit lays out the adjustments the Patriots should make on offense against Miami, and previews the rest of Week 15's games. FULL STORY

It’s time for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to continue his progress, make the right pre-snap reads on every snap to find the mismatch and not hold the ball while trying to be a hero.

It’s time for Mike Wallace to deliver on his $60 million contract by finding any way possible to be a factor in this game.

It’s time for the Dolphins’ defense to be prepared for the Patriots to use their hurry-up attack. It’s time for a talented defensive line to dominate the Patriots up front. It’s time for the two linebackers signed in the offseason, Dannell Ellerbee and Philip Wheeler, to do what they were brought to Miami to do: blitz the living daylights out of Brady and pound him into ineffectiveness. It’s time for the Dolphins’ coverage players to realize that if you shut down Edelman and Vereen, the Patriots are going to have a hard time moving the ball.

“It’s a good time to test yourselves, the one-on-one matchups put it all to the test, the team as a whole and see where you are after all this work you’ve put in come the middle of December,” receiver Brian Hartline said.

It’s not just a good time, it’s the only time for the Dolphins against the Patriots.

Head over to Page 2 for five bold Week 15 predictions, and the one-on-one matchup you should watch Sunday.

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14 comments
copepajman
copepajman

In the Sunday game against the Dolphins the Patriots played like all of their other 14 games this year, 'consistently-inconsistent'!  I wish I could believe they were ready for the play-off games, but they're not. The Patriots looked better last year than this year. A real 'lack-of-discipline' exists throughout the whole defensive team [it takes two defenders to cover one receiver and their coverage is only 50 - 60% at best]. 

Starstruck
Starstruck

The Dolphins have been playing better since bullying was exposed in their locker room. Maybe there was some truth to it, or maybe it caused the existing players to focus more on the game itself. 

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

Ridiculous choice for a 1 on 1 matchup.  The game doesn't mean ANYTHING.  For an unimportant game, I'd pick the 49ers' Vernon Davis against former teammate Dashon Goldson - there should be some hitting there. However, there are half a dozen Meaningful Games, and there must be match-ups there of both greater appeal and significance.  

MarkBrantner
MarkBrantner

Actually, the Dolphins dont NEED to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive.  They simply need to win one more game than Baltimore in the next three weeks.  If Miami loses this week but goes on to beat the Bills and the Jets, and the Ravens go 1-3, they are in the playoffs.  The Ravens play Detroit and Cincy on the road coming up.  those are very losable games.  So I get making this a "must-win" makes the article more dramatic, but it's simply not factual...

SamuelMyatSan
SamuelMyatSan

Bedard is not saying that the Dolphins CAN beat the Patriots. He is saying that this game represents the best chance for them to do so and that the fins need to step up to their unfulfilled potential. It's a compliment to the Patriots, saying that the best chance for Miami to beat New England lies in the latter missing its most vital players. I think Greg knows the Pats will win in the end. Because that is the truth. 

MichaelMcNally
MichaelMcNally

Apparently you didn't watch the Patriots game last week. Brady completed a 44 yard pass to the fullback and another 32 yard pass to a backup TE. Both of these plays turned into scoring drives. Brady will always find the open receiver no matter who it is.

argirodo
argirodo

Pounding into ineffectiveness. That sounds like bullying to me.

charliev
charliev

What the hell have you been smoking! I gotta get me some. Dolphins fold.

FatSlowTri
FatSlowTri

@westcoastbias One team playing for a bye and the other playing to get in the playoff's vs. a team in the playoffs and one tha can barely play? Yeah. Spot on dude. LOL

SamuelMyatSan
SamuelMyatSan

@MarkBrantner I think Bebard was not talking about the fins' playoff hopes. Rather, it's about the fact that they have not played well against the Pats for ages (last win in 2009) and that now is a good chance to get the monkey of their backs. 


MarkBrantner
MarkBrantner

I meant 1-2, the Ravens need to go 1-2, not 1-3...

FatSlowTri
FatSlowTri

@MichaelMcNally Really? Seems silly now that the game is over. And btw, they (he) beat the Browns on a ticky tack interference call.

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