Armando Salguero

Five things to watch: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has three 200-plus-yard rushing games this season, which means Patriots coach Bill Belichick will make stopping Ajayi New England’s priority on defense.
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has three 200-plus-yard rushing games this season, which means Patriots coach Bill Belichick will make stopping Ajayi New England’s priority on defense. adiaz@miamiherald.com

1 Jay Ajayi against the world: Fine, so maybe the Dolphins running back isn’t in this thing by himself or against the entire Earth. But the Patriots will be concentrating on him first and foremost, particularly since he’s coming off his third 200-yard game of the season. Bill Belichick typically wants to take away the other team’s best weapon. For the Miami offense, that is Ajayi.

2 How can the Dolphins slow down the Patriots?: The Miami defense gave up 600 yards last week and although Miami coaches diminish the significance of that, saying it is more about points and red-zone defense and turnovers, the fact remains the Bills offense was on the field over 90 plays because it continued to churn yardage. And they’re the Bills. They don’t have Tom Brady and Julius Edelman and Martellus Bennett. If the Patriots are on their game, they might rack up some impressive yardage as well.

3 Get the ball to the rookies: Last week, Kenyan Drake showed how dangerous speed can be when he turned a certain busted play into a long TD run by reversing field and using his speed to make a house call. So give him the ball some more somehow. Jakeem Grant is actually faster than Drake yet hasn’t been used with any consistency on offense. Why not a reverse or bubble screen to him to get him in space? Just saying.

4 Can the Dolphins put pressure on Tom Brady? The formula for beating the Patriots has not changed over the past 16 years or so Brady has been the quarterback. If you can get consistent pressure on him, including up the middle from defensive tackles or linebacker A-gap blitzers, he gets uncomfortable. And when he’s uncomfortable, he’s not nearly as accurate and the Patriots offense is not nearly as efficient. And, perhaps, with the playoff beckoning, the team decides risking Brady is not a priority and either pulls back or pulls him out.

5 Can Matt Moore win it for Miami? Remember that Belichick wants to stop Ajayi? Well, if the Patriots are committing to stopping the run, that should make it possible for the Dolphins to throw the football more effectively. So far, Matt Moore has been very good in replacing an injured Ryan Tannehill. Can he take another step toward Earl Morrall status by actually putting the weight of the offense on his shoulders if Ajayi is stopped?

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments