By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
December 20, 2004

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MIAMI, FL -- Every week New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has somehow found a way to convince his team that they had a tough opponent they needed better be ready for. He made bad teams look like championship caliber clubs that could easily hand his team a defeat if they weren't careful.

As the Patriots get set to take on the hapless 2-11 Miami Dolphins, looking at the previous game's film (a 24-10 win over Miami in Foxboro back on October 10th) it would have been interesting to have heard what Belichick would have used for motivation. In that game, despite quarterback Tom Brady throwing for just 76 yards and their offense converting a dismal 4-of-14 third down attempts, New England still managed a two-touchdown win over the Dolphins.

The Patriots defense also managed to knock out Miami quarterbacks Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley in the final minutes of the game with injuries, and stopped the Dolphins inside the red zone on each of their final three possessions of the game.

Although his team stopped Miami and kept them out of the end zone, apparently the angle the head coach used this week was that they shouldn't have been there in the first place. As far as Belichick's concerned, his team was lucky to escape with a win.

"Last time we played Miami they were down there on the goal line several times," said Belichick earlier in the week. "We were fortunate to keep them out and limit the points. We couldn't do anything. We couldn't throw the ball. We couldn't move the ball very effectively."

"So, a couple big plays in the game went our way. We stopped them on a fake punt and a couple of plays like that that are kind of unusual. They played without their kicker. Looking back at that game it was a very competitive game and Miami is a lot better than they were then, especially offensively."

Miami's offense will likely have a better chance against a Patriots team that has lost their other starting cornerback since these two teams last met. In their last meeting, while Tyrone Poole was inactive for the game, New England still had Ty Law and a healthy Asante Samuel. Now they're depleted and have plenty of inexperience in their secondary, and that is something Belichick fully expects to see the Dolphins try to exploit tonight.

"I'm sure that the more the teams see anybody play, the more that they'll game plan for that particular player and try to, absolutely, try to attack that player's weaknesses," said Belichick this week. "[They'll] run certain routes or run certain plays that they think exploit either the scheme or individual players. Without a doubt."

The good news is that in their last meeting New England also overcame injuries to wide receivers Deion Branch and Troy Brown who both missed the game, along with dealing with the absence of Bethel Johnson who was held out due to a "coach's decision".

This time around they'll have both Brown and Branch back in the line-up, although Johnson apparently suffered a thigh injury late in the week and is listed as "questionable" heading into the game.

That's good news because in their earlier meeting having to rely on the likes of P.K. Sam and Kevin Kasper to throw to when David Givens and David Patten were unable to get open didn't work out too well. The end result was Brady getting pounded, including getting his chin cut open when he was forced to hold onto the ball much longer than he's normally used to. While this time around he may be without Givens, having both Branch and Brown in the line-up will certainly help.

For now their coach has given them more reasons why they'll need their best game when they take the field this evening, and it appears they've gotten the message.

"Every team is dangerous, especially this team," Brady told reporters earlier in the week of the Dolphins. "I don't think there's ever been a game where we play Miami and it's not been an extremely difficult game."

"They're one of the best teams we play all year, especially down there. I think we've only beaten them one time in a whole bunch of years and that was last year on an overtime 80-yard bomb. So, it's going to be tough."


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