Heading Into Their Match-Up vs Miami, Belichick Knows Defense Is Key

Ian Logue
October 5, 2001 at 1:27 pm ET

FOXBORO, MA — From the time it was announced that Bill Belichick was going to be the head coach of the New England Patriots, fans immediately thought of one word:

Defense.

Fans may have finally gotten a glimpse of what everyone was hoping for, a defensive unit that against the Colts were able to hold one of the best runningbacks in football to a mere 55-yards rushing, as well as holding one of the premier quarterbacks in the game to 196-yards passing and three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

This week they’ll head to Miami and face off against the Dolphins who have a tough defense of their own, and like last weekend it will most likely come down to which defense can force a turnover and make the big play. Belichick knows that it may come down to one snap of the football that could determine which way the momentum of the game could go.

“Every play and every situation that we cover is done with an emphasis of this could the difference,” said Belichick on Friday. “Whether it be red area, two-minute, third down, goal line, a play action pass, [etc.].”

“Like last week, we got beat on a play action pass on a third down play. We were in the red area down there at the end of the game and couldn’t score. Any one of those plays could have made a big difference. Each time we go to those situations in practice this week we have tried to emphasize how we could be talking about the game right here and this is just another play. This could be the difference. I think ultimately it probably will be the difference. We will look back at the game and get a couple of key plays and say those key plays were really turning points in the game. We just don’t know which ones they are now.”

Last weekend against St. Louis it was Miami who turned the ball over four times and were unable to create any opportunities of their own. Surprisingly enough the Patriots are currently ranked 11th in total defense compared to Miami who is ranked #21. Despite Miami’s reputation on defense Belichick believes that his team can hang with anyone, and that includes the Dolphins. During both games last season (losses of 10-3 and 27-24) the Patriots played Miami close but were unable to pull the game out at the end.

“I think both games against Miami last year came down to a couple of real close plays,” said Belichick. “They won both games. I don’t feel like we have trouble with them. We haven’t beaten them, but we were in both games all the way to the wire. One or two plays and they would have come out differently.”

“I don’t think that we were outclassed against Miami any more than I think Indianapolis was outclassed against us. That is the way it is in this division. Just looking at last year, other than last year’s second Jet game, as I said, I think we were well-prepared for, high emotionally, [but then] we turn the ball over and get down 14-0 and it wasn’t a real competitive game. Other than that every game last year was a close game in the division, every single one of them.”

“I don’t know that anybody has really got anybody’s number. They are tough close games that come down to a kick or a play or a tackle or a decision at the right time and that’s the type of game that we need to expect to play in. It is nice to win by 30 points, but I think you need to expect to play in a game like that.”

Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas is questionable heading into Sunday’s game and completed only a limited practice on Thursday. It would be a surprise if he played this weekend, and also a blessing if he didn’t. Thomas was a problem for New England during both games last season, and they may have caught a break in the event he is unable to go this weekend.

Considering the fact that Miami is coming off of a 42-10 beating from the Rams, and New England is beaming following their 44-13 whipping of the Colts, Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt said earlier in the week that Sunday’s game is a big one for his team.

“Two weeks ago, maybe I would have thought that maybe this would take some motivation, to make sure we didn’t fall into a trap,” Wannstedt said earlier in the week. “But not now. This game is as big a game as we will have all year.”

Belichick knows it’s a big game for the Patriots as well. It will even New England’s record at 2-2 as well as put them at 2-1 in their division. The Patriots may have won big last Sunday, but this week is now a whole new game for his football team.

“It is about this week,” said Belichick. “It is about the team who is the defending champion of the division [playing them] on the road and we need our best effort this week.”

“That is really the message that I have tried to give to the team, we need our best game.”



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