The last time the Dolphins played the Patriots, which was pretty much two weeks ago, Miami fell into 14-0, 21-7 and 28-10 holes en route to a 35-17 defeat. Oh, there were some other trouble factoids, too.
Tom Brady tossed 4 touchdowns and Matt Moore was sacked 7 times and Kenyan Drake gained 2.2 yards per rush.
The Patriots pretty much always beat the Patriots and the Dolphins are once again huge underdogs tonight and, oh yeah, they’re 0-4 on national televised games this year, which means The Daily Dolphin may not have so many late nights next fall.
But as for tonight, if some sort of holiday magic occurs, and the Dolphins stun the football world at Hard Rock Stadium, they would actually improve to 6-7 and be squarely back in the AFC Playoff race. This is Miami’s “bowl” game. The season could all-but-officially end tonight.
And so for the unexpected to happen, these fellas in old-school aqua and orange unis must come through:
• Alterraun Verner, cornerback — Verner did a nice job in relief of injured Cordrea Tankersley last Sunday. Of course Verner was facing Trevor Siemian and not Tom Brady, which is sort of like eating Froot Loops for dinner instead of Filet Mignon. Verner has a Pro Bowl pedigree, so it’s not like he’s chopped liver, to continue with the food theme. (There are some excellent new food choices at The Rock this season.) Do people really enjoy chopped liver? Look, Miami’s secondary was a mess against New England two weeks ago. Perhaps Verner’s veteran status will help ease the communication burden that weighed down the group then. Verner addressed facing Brady and company in the Daily Dolphin this week.
• Jay Cutler, quarterback — There are as many as four games left in the Jay Cutler Dolphins era, and probably no more. Perhaps there are four games left in Cutler’s career. He’s sort of been as advertised. Some up some down. Five wins. Five losses. 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. A passer rating similar to his career average, but not nearly as good as when he was with Adam Gase in 2015 in Chicago. Cutler conceded facing the Patriots is challenging. He hasn’t beaten them in three tries, of course neither has Gase, so that’s something they have in common. Maybe Cutler beats the Patriots, on a Monday night, and that’s a part of his Dolphins legacy we remember forever. I mean, if he did, we would, right?
• Mike Pouncey, center — We could just as easily put Laremy Tunsil here. The rookie left tackle (hey, we said rookie left tackle) hasn’t gotten to where he needs to be, and acknowledged this week he’s working to master his practice habits. We could just as easily put Sam Young here, as the backup is projected to start at right tackle again for Miami. But we’ll put Pouncey here, because he’s the Dolphins offensive lineman most responsible to make sure that Patriots defenders don’t run clean though the line tonight. He’s the Dolphins offensive lineman who is more directly responsible to make sure the protection calls are right.
• Cam Wake, defensive end — Wake had five quarterback hits on Tom Brady, and one sack, in the last meeting. How many of these big stage moments does Wake have left as a Dolphin? The Dolphins got eight quarterback hits on Brady last game, which is great, though only the one sack, which is less great. Wake could use some help from Andre Branch or Charles Harris, because you have to figure the Patriots are going to make some adjustments and take their chances with the other guys. For Miami to have a chance, they must force a few uncharacteristic Patriots turnovers. One of those Wake sack-fumble-recovery deals with be a nice step in the right direction.
• DeVante Parker, wide receiver — Everyone is down on Parker, including himself, an understandably so. Parker has gone over 100 yards only three times in his young career, but twice actually came against New England, in back to back games at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016. In video shot by NFL Films during the last meeting between these teams, Patriots coach Bill Belichick indicated he wanted to repeatedly double-team Jarvis Landry. Obviously Belichick doesn’t mind leaving Parker one-on-one. After that game, Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore indicated he can tell what routes Parker is about to run and is running, in part because Miami’s offense is not all that complex. Ouch. Parker has too much talent to suck this bad, for this long. Maybe tonight, somehow, he rediscovers his confidence.