DAVIE—The Dolphins haven’t won at New England since 2008, and hardly anyone believes they can break that Sunday.
With four straight losses, they’re stuck in their longest losing streak since 2013. They’ve got a bunch of players out or playing through injury, and the Patriots come in with the best record in the AFC at 8-2.
If Miami has any shot at pulling the upset, it needs big games from these three units:
With Jay Cutler sidelined by a concussion, the Dolphins are going with Matt Moore as their starter and David Fales as his backup. Both are unknowns. Moore looked terrific coming in for Cutler in the second half against the Jets and Buccaneers, but was a mess in the 40-0 loss to Baltimore. He’s not as conservative as Cutler, but maybe that’s not what the Dolphins need. Moore’s penchant for gambling could work out well with deep threats like DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. It also should help that New England’s pass defense ranks last in the league. Fales, whose only regular-season action was throwing five passes in relief for the Bears in 2015, needs to be ready to jump in at any moment.
The Dolphins’ underperforming defensive line might not get many chances at reaching Tom Brady, who has one of the quickest triggers in the league. The more consequential task is staying on top of his targets. Young cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley, Bobby McCain and safeties T.J. McDonald and Reshad Jones must make things difficult on Brady. New England has five players with at least 30 catches this year, and he hit seven last week while going 30 of 37 for 340 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Miami needs to hit the Patriots with a little bit of their own medicine. Since trading Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins have gotten an average of 137.3 total yards from the split backfield of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. That’s up from Ajayi’s 76 per game. It’s clear coach Adam Gase is more comfortable running an offense with this kind of versatility at running back, and his inclination seems to be having them continue to share the role fairly equally. It can’t be the case that Drake is the runner and Williams the receiver, either, because that’s too predictable. Both of them have to be effective in the running and passing games.
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