New England’s offense might be a “a monster,” as Reggie Bush said this week, but it’s hard to have nightmares when you barely sleep.
Just ask Nolan Carroll, who was up before the sun on Wednesday morning and at work by 6 a.m. Film study has consumed his week.
If he was in the mood for a horror flick, Carroll simply needed to pop in the game film from the last time Tom Brady visited Miami Gardens.
Brady threw for more yards in the 2011 season opener (517) than any opposing quarterback in Dolphins history — on national TV no less.
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And now for the really bad news: The Patriots offense is even better now than it was then; the Dolphins pass defense, however, is not.
The Patriots lead the league in points (37.0) and yards per game (435.8). Brady’s quarterback rating — 105.0 — is second to only Aaron Rodgers. They’re a staggering plus-24 in turnovers. And New England has scored 145 points since Veterans Day, putting the Patriots in striking distance of the NFL’s scoring record (589, which they set in 2007).
“They’re playing at high level,” Carroll said. “They’re a well-oiled machine.”
They’re also a well-programmed machine. Notoriously grumpy Bill Belichick merely shrugged when asked if this is the best New England offense in the last five years, saying it didn’t matter one way or the other.
Brady, speaking to Miami reporters via conference call, was likewise on message.
“What we’re trying to do is get the edge in this game,” he said. “Nothing that we’ve done this year means anything going into this game.”
Meanwhile, the defensive backfield has been a concern for the Dolphins all season. Since the start of training camp, they have traded away one starting corner (Vontae Davis) and lost another for the season to injury (Richard Marshall). Not surprisingly, they rank 26th in pass defense, allowing 262 yards per game through the air.
On the year, quarterbacks have a rating of 90.3 on throws targeting Carroll, Sean Smith and Jimmy Wilson — the Dolphins’ top three corners. R.J. Stanford has since worked into the rotation, seeing more defensive snaps the past two weeks (48) than he had in the season’s first nine.
And Wednesday, the Dolphins added another name to the mix: Michael Coe, a fifth-year veteran most recently with the Giants.
Coe, a 6-0, 187-pound corner, appeared in seven games this year before New York put him on injured reserve with an injured hamstring. The Giants cut him outright earlier this week.
He began the season as the team’s starter but lost the job after early struggles. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 80 percent of their passes thrown in his coverage area in 2012, and during his NFL career, he has allowed a quarterback rating of 134.1 when targeted.
It’s unclear whether he will be used on defense or was brought in purely for special teams purposes.
“I’m going to prepare like that,” Coe said, when asked if he might be ready to play Sunday. “I don’t know any other way.”
What makes beating the Patriots so tough — their versatility — makes predicting how the Dolphins will go about defending New England, well, unpredictable.
The Patriots don’t have a clear-cut downfield wide receiver; instead they work from the middle of the field out with their tight ends. And they do so at warp speed, making Miami’s hurry-up offense look downright pedestrian by comparison.
Smith, who hasn’t beaten Brady since his rookie season, called the Patriots the ultimate test and worthy of the league’s top ranking. The Dolphins have been able to hang with the Patriots for the first half of games, Smith said, before things unraveled late (like Wes Welker’s 99-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter of last September’s air show).
But don’t take that to mean Smith is cowed.
“Coach [Kevin] Coyle and his staff have a great game plan,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how it unfolds on Sunday. I feel real good right now. I think we have a great shot on Sunday.”
But only if they first can get some shut-eye.