Facing the NFL’s top-rated offense, No. 1 passing offense and the AFC’s top-rated quarterback is difficult enough at full strength. Doing it with a secondary and linebacker corps dealing with injuries is even more problematic for the Dolphins, with the high-powered Patriots visiting on Sunday.
Already without safety Reshad Jones, who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury, the Dolphins were not sure on Monday about the availability of cornerback Byron Maxwell — who missed the Buffalo game with an ankle injury — or safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who sustained a neck injury on Saturday and left the stadium with his arm in a sling.
The Dolphins initially thought one of Abdul-Quddus’ issues was a stinger but were awaiting MRI results on Monday.
As for Maxwell, he “felt better towards the end of [last] week,” coach Adam Gase said. “We just weren’t going to put him out there and really kind of hurt our chances for him to possibly play this week.”
Linebacker is also an issue, with Koa Misi out for the year and Jelani Jenkins’ status in doubt because of a knee injury.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been exceptional since returning from his season-opening, four-game suspension. He has an AFC-leading 110.7 rating (second in the NFL behind only Atlanta’s Matt Ryan), 25 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Gase had no update on the status of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has a sprained MCL and ACL in his left knee.
Tannehill is walking with a limp but no longer has a cast on the knee. He is not expected to play Sunday, but the team has not ruled out his return for the playoffs, depending on his progress.
▪ Gase said running back Jay Ajayi, who spoke of a shoulder issue after Saturday’s game, will be OK.
▪ If the Dolphins win Sunday, they will go 7-1 at home, something Miami hasn’t done since 2002. The upgrades to Hard Rock Stadium resulted in some seats being closer to the field, and Gase on Monday said the home field is making a difference.
“The last time that I had been in the stadium [before this year] was 2011. It doesn’t even look like the same stadium anymore,” Gase said.
“When we go to play games and those things get tight, the volume that our stadium is generating right now has been outstanding. The excitement — you feel it when you walk into the stadium; you feel it through the players when they step out on the field. There’s a different juice for us when we’re on our sideline, when we’re at home. Our guys do everything they can to try to maintain that when we go on the road, but it’s not the same.
“You feel a big-time difference. When we’re at home, our players feed off it. You can feel the excitement in the stands; you can feel the excitement, especially when our defense is on the field. That’s probably one of the [most fun] things for me as a coach that’s able to step back — being an offense guy, watching our defense — and feel that energy coming out, especially on third down. It’s something that’s rare.”
▪ Asked if the Dolphins have notified the league office about Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes head-butting Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi on the sideline on Saturday, Gase said: “I didn’t really make a big deal about it. It’s football. Sometimes things like that happen.”