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Patriots – Titans Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
January 12, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots return from the bye week to take on the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round of the 2017 Playoffs. The game will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, where if the team is successful this week, will be the place for the AFC Championship Game.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Saturday, January 13, at 8:15 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (13-3) took care of business in Week 17 beating the Jets to end the season and had a much needed week off to heal up the many injuries that they have suffered this season.

The Titans (10-7) stormed back from a big 21-3 halftime deficit to stun the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round 22-21. The team rushed for 202 yards with Derrick Henry accounting for 156 of them. QB Marcus Mariota completed a TD pass….to himself in one of the crazier plays you’ll see.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Titans are meeting for the 42nd time going back to the old days of the AFL and when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. Overall the Patriots hold a 24-16-1 edge. The Patriots have won the last six meetings including a 2003 season Divisional Playoff win.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots running game was firing on all cylinders until Rex Burkhead and James White went down with injuries. However, Dion Lewis has been simply outstanding in the second half of the season. Lewis will get the lion’s share of the work in the running game, even if both of those backs return.

The Titans are very stout against the run allowing just 88 yards per game. It starts with the big men in the middle, Sylvester Williams, Jurrell Casey and Austin Johnson. They’re big and physical and will make the going tough.

Look for the Patriots to pass to set up the run. The Patriots have run for more yards in the red zone in 2017 than any other team in the league. When they get down low, they like to run Lewis inside and catch teams in a pass rushing situation.

Patriots WRs vs Titans Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game should get Chris Hogan, James White and maybe ….Burkhead back this week which will be a huge boost for the passing game.

The Titans can get after the passer and have 43 sacks, they also have the biggest ball hawk in All-Pro Safety Kevin Byard, but the two areas that they struggle in are the two are the Patriots strengths, covering running backs in the passing game and covering tight ends. They’re going to have to bring pressure up the middle if they’re going to slow down this passing offense.

Look for the Patriots to target Gronkowski and the backs early and often in this one. With the big men up front, the Patriots may try to keep them in their base look and then go hurry up to wear those big men down. If Brady has his full complement of receivers this week, this offense should easily have its way with Dick LeBeau’s defense.

Next up the Titans offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Titans have the big man, Derrick Henry at running back and Marcus Mariota, who is a dual threat to run or throw. They averaged just over 114 yards per game on the ground. Demarco Murray has already been ruled out of this one with an injury so it will be Henry. He gets better as the game goes on, so if the score is still close late in the game, that’s when he’s at his most effective.

The Patriots run defense has had major issues this season defending the run especially on the edge but they’ll be getting Alan Branch back inside and the addition of James Harrison should really pay dividends. That means Kyle Van Noy, who is also returning from injury can move inside where he’s more effective.

The Titans are a run-first team, but they’ll want to mix things up and keep New England off-balance. But will Henry influence the game enough to tip the scales for the Titans? He’ll get his yards but the Patriots have gotten better against the run down the stretch. Shutting down the Jets and Bills on the ground.

Titans WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Titans have 3rd year QB Mariota who had a great 2016 but slipped badly this year throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Tennessee has a talented group of receivers with Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker and Corey Davis outside and Delanie Walker at tight end. Walker led the team with 74 catches for 807 yards and three scores.

The Patriots struggled horribly in September against the pass but since then, things have tightened up considerably. The Patriots on third down have the fourth best opponent passer rating of just 76.8. The corners and safeties have tightened things up. Look for Pat Chung to battle Walker which will be a key area to watch. Harrison may add a bit to the pass rush for the Patriots who got 42 sacks on the season. Mariota averaged just 199.4 yards per game passing this year. If the Patriots get off to a quick start, the big question is, can he throw enough to keep up?

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams are among the best in the NFL, they excel in punt and kick coverage and continuously turn in big plays. Stephen Gostkowski had a very solid season and his kickoffs consistently put opponents deep in their own end. Ryan Allen is very adept at pinning opponents inside the 20 and the team has perennial Pro-Bowl ST player Matthew Slater on the coverage units.

The Titans punter Brett Kern led the league in punting average with 49.7 yards per punt and have Adoree Jackson on both their punt and kick return units.

Next up, who wins and why…


Once again the key here from a Patriots perspective is to get off to a quick start. They haven’t been good at throwing the ball (23rd in the NFL) so they’re not going to be at their best if they have to throw and get away from the run.

With the Patriots getting most of their weapons back this week, look for Tom Brady to spread the wealth around and test this pass defense. Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz schemes are the same defenses that he ran in Pittsburgh. There is no mystery there for the Patriots or Brady. Will LeBeau mix things up and play more man coverage this week? That’s the big question here. If they sit back in a zone, the only chance they’ll have is if they get great pressure up the middle. Another key is ball security. With an offense that scores just about 20 points per game, the Pats can’t afford to give Mariota and the Titans offense short fields and easy scores. They have to feel pressure to score every time they get the ball in order to keep up.

Tennessee is at their best when the force the game into a physical slugfest where the score is a 17-14 type of game into the fourth quarter. Those are the games tailor-made for them to win. Mariota is a dual threat to run/pass but I don’t expect the Patriots to “spy” him with a linebacker. It will just come down to the players doing their job and the defensive ends not getting too far upfield.

Brady, Gronkowski, and Lewis will have big games this week and New England advances for the seventh straight year to the AFC Championship Game with a solid team victory as they pull away late.  Patriots 31-14

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 3-6 and AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 6, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division.

Brady/Pats Extend Contract to 2019: Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Diana Russini that the Patriots will extend QB Tom Brady’s contract thru the 2019 season. Brady was signed through the 2017 season and was set to make $10 million in 2017 and $9 million this year. His salary cap hit of $15 million will most certainly come down now as a result.

With the extension and if Brady plays the entire length of his contract, Brady will be 42-years old and will have spent at least 20 years with one team, becoming one of only three players to do so. He’ll join Jackie Slater and Darrell Green as the only players to do that.

The contract isn’t signed yet, but it is expected to save the team between $2-3 million dollars against this season’s cap which is important because the team is looking to extend defensive stars Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler and Chandler Jones to long-term deals to keep them in New England for the foreseeable future.

Backup QB Jimmy Garappolo is signed thru the 2017 season.

Brady Court Hearing Takes a Bad Turn: In the latest court news fallout from the Deflategate fiasco, the NFL’s case seemingly looks stronger again as at least two of the three judges in the appeals case on the surface appeared to take the NFL’s side in their questioning.

Judge Barrington Daniels Parker brought up the issue of Brady’s cell phone and said that Brady’s explanation that he routinely destroys his cellphones when replacing them to protect his privacy, “made no sense whatsoever.”

Judge Denny Chin even commented on the shoddy science used in the Wells Report pointed to a conspiracy, calling the NFL’s evidence of ball tampering, “compelling if not overwhelming.”

Their decision isn’t expected to be handed down for several months but most onlookers in the court expect the league’s suspension to be reapplied.

Patriots Begin Roster Trimming: The team this week cut WR Brandon LaFell,  TE Scott Chandler and LB Darius Fleming as well as telling RFAs WR Brian Tyms and DT Sealver Siliga that they won’t be offered new deals, effectively ending their time in New England.

LaFell was only a year removed from a combined regular season and playoff run from a 1000-yard year. But offseason foot surgery held him out of all of spring and summer workouts. Once he did return, he struggled badly and ended up with only 37 catches and zero touchdowns in 2015. Chandler too struggled badly last year and finished with just 23 catches. His knee issues bothered him all down the stretch and he failed his physical. Fleming was a backup linebacker who played sparingly in the absence of both Hightower and Collins.

Both Tyms and Siliga were depth personnel and on the surface, their departure, as well as Fleming is a bit surprising as they won’t get a chance to win a spot at training camp. But since they don’t fit into the Patriots plans, the decision to release them now both frees up some cash and allows them a chance to latch on with another team quickly.

Free Agency Peek: With the honeymooning phase of free agency beginning on Monday, the Patriots aren’t flush with cash so don’t expect them to be making a flurry of big moves once it starts. The most pressing needs for the team remain:

  • Running Back Depth: The team desperately needs a big back who can run between the tackles and catch some passes out of the backfield. A couple of names that continue to surface for NE include Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, and Alfred Morris.
  • Offensive Line Depth: The core of the interior OL is set with either 2nd or 3rd -year players, an added veteran would serve them well, possibly a return of Josh Kline. At the tackle position, ideally, they would find a right tackle as a replacement for Sebastian Vollmer and move him to swing.
  • Wide Receiver: With Tyms and LaFell both gone, now this is more than a depth need, they need youth, size and some speed on the outside. Don’t expect a big splash name but some solid veterans include Chris Hogan, Rishard Matthews and Rod Streater with more pieces added in the NFL draft.
  • Linebacker Depth: Collins and Hightower are set, the team still has some depth behind them with Jon Bostic and Jonathan Freeny but could use another linebacker to augment them.
  • Tight End: With Chandler gone, it is Rob Gronkowski, Michael Williams who is a blocking tight end and 2nd year player A.J. Derby who missed all of 2015 on IR. Mike Reiss pointed to former Colts TE Dwayne Allen as a possible fit and he’s a good receiver and blocker who would be of interest…if the price is right.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Bring in Mario Williams: Miami is looking to augment its pass rush and brought in free agent Mario Williams for a visit on Saturday. Williams was released by Buffalo on Tuesday and is free to sign with any team now but has stated he will make several visits before deciding on a new team.

Miami placed a $12.734 million-dollar transitional franchise tag on DE Olivier Vernon. Which means he can negotiate with other teams but gives the Dolphins the right of first refusal. The status of DE Cameron Wake who is 34 and coming off an Achilles injury is still somewhat hazy at this point as well.

Williams struggled in Buffalo in the first year of the Rex Ryan regime and at times was outwardly critical of how he was used and the game planning. In his first three seasons in Buffalo Williams tallied 38 sacks but that number plummeted to just five in 2015.

Jets Aren’t Expected to Be Big Players in Free Agency: After making a splash last year with a number of big name signings, the Jets don’t have the flexibility monetarily to be big spenders in 2016.

The biggest question now is QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and how much and how long he gets. NY GM Mike Maccagnan can’t be a happy camper seeing the deal that Sam Bradford got with the Philadelphia Eagles because that just drove up the price for Fitzpatrick’s contract.

Damon Harrison should probably be back and then the team will have to make a decision on which running back Chris Ivory or Bilal Powell remains. Right now the money is on Powell remaining with Gang Green but it is possible the Jets could lose both in free agency. Look for them to start cutting some middle of the roster veterans to create some cap space.

Right now the Jets have about $7 million dollars in cap space to work with.

Bills Release Long-time CB Leodis McKelvin: Williams wasn’t the only notable member of the Bills released this week as the team released Leodis McKelvin after he refused to accept a pay cut.

McKelvin, 30 immediately becomes a free agent and should draw significant interest even though he suffered through an injury-shortened 2015 season that saw him play in only nine games. He’s been with the Bills since being drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft as the 11th overall pick by Buffalo.

The team is still in good shape at cornerback with Stephon Gillmore and 2nd year player Ronald Darby who shined as a rookie. The release of McKelvin is expected to free up $3.9 million dollars and now gives Buffalo around $13 million in cap space.

Help Save and Rescue Dogs and Meet a Patriots Legend: Odie’s Place is a registered 501c3 Animal Rescue organization run by Brian Harrington and his wife Kerrie down in Dartmouth, Mass.

They rescue dogs that are either in a bad situation or from shelters that are about to put them down. Rescuing these animals, placing them in temporary foster homes and finding them a safe, happy permanent home is time-consuming and takes money.

Today, Sunday, March 6 at the New Bedford Home Show, he’ll be doing a fundraiser with Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Nelson who’ll be signing autographs for a small fee with all of the money going to Odie’s Place. They’ll also be raffling off a Nelson jersey that will be autographed by Nellie on site as well as taking some pictures with fans.

Come down and support a great cause and talk some football with a Pats legend…BTW my own family recently adopted a two-year-old English Bulldog from Odie’s Place and we are happy to have added her to our household.

Odies place

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

All-22 Look at the Patriots, Dolphins; What to Watch for Sunday

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2016 at 11:59 am ET

The Patriots were victorious in their earlier season matchup with the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro. Here’s a look at that game using the NFL’s Game Pass with the All-22 game film to see how they can do it again.

Although Julian Edelman, and Dion Lewis were big parts of the Patriots offense on that night, there remain matchups that can be utilized once again especially in the middle of the field with Rob Gronkowski and James White, in lieu of Lewis.

We’ll take a final look at some of the key plays on Sunday before we move on to the bye week for the playoffs. We indicated during our key matchups some of the areas to monitor in this game and we’ll highlight them from the earlier contest.

If the Patriots can create some of these same mismatches on the field on Sunday, there is no reason that they shouldn’t be victorious and secure the #1 seed of the AFC.

Gronkowski 47-Yard Touchdown: On the opening drive of the game, the Patriots have moved to the Miami 47-yard line. Gronkowski aligns in-line on the right side, in a tight formation. TE Michael Williams goes in motion right. LeGarrette Blount is the lone deep back with Brady under center and they are showing run.

Gronk TD

At the snap Gronkowski runs a deep crossing route under the linebackers who can’t drop deep enough to influence the play. Brady throws over them and Gronkowski has a lot of room to run.

Gronk TD2

He runs deep down the left sideline and gets a crushing block from Brandon LaFell who takes out safety Michael Thomas giving Gronkowski an easy path to the end zone.

Gronk 47 TD3

Blount 6-yard run: One of the reasons the Dolphins have struggled so much this season has been the poor play of the defense, both against the pass and against the run. Here is a prime example of them being in good position initially and not making a play.

The Patriots are in run formation with Blount taking a straight hand-off from Brady. At the point of attack, the Patriots double team Earl Mitchell inside and Olivier Vernon on the edge. Initially the Dolphins are in great shape to stop the play. Linebackers Kelvin Sheppard and Jelani Jenkins as well as safety Reshad Jones all have open gaps to shoot in and disrupt the play.

Blount 4 yd run

But the Patriots block down and Shaq Mason peels off Vernon and seals Jenkins. Julian Edelman comes in from the outside and pushes Jones inside. Blount finds nowhere to run inside and breaks it to the left where he runs off left tackle for a gain of six.

Blount 4 yd run2

Gronk 12-yard reception: After getting a false start penalty, the Patriots have a 1st and 15 from their own 26-yard line. They line up with two tight ends (Gronk and Chandler) to the right with Gronk inside. Gronkowski gets a free release and once again loops behind the linebackers and creates a great deal of separation.

Gronk 12 yd

Brady lobs his pass over the coverage to a wide open Gronk and the Patriots gain 12-yards and make it 2nd and 3 which is much more manageable for an offense. Miami’s linebackers can make a deep enough drop to influence the play.

Gronk 12 yd2

Gronkowski 33-yard reception: Later in the game, the Patriots line up in the same formation this time with Dion Lewis in the backfield. The Dolphins slide up the safety Jones to take Gronk this time and contest the route from the line.

Gronk 33 yd

But at the snap, Brady freezes Jones and the linebackers with play-action. Gronkowski gets a step on Jones who is in catch up mode. Gronkowski is running free down the seam and Brady’s back shoulder throw is an easy catch because Jones is trying so hard to catch up, he actually overruns the play.

Gronk 33 yd2

Had Brady tried to hit him over the top, Jones’ make-up speed would have allowed him a much better chance of breaking it up. Heads up play by Brady and Gronkowski.

Gronk 33 yd3

Logan Ryan Interception: In our keys to the game, we talked about how QB Ryan Tannehill looks to WR Jarvis Landry more than twice the rate of anyone else. And that sometimes when Landry is taken away, he’ll make mistakes when making his second and third reads.

At the snap Landry is covered by Malcolm Butler with an outside shade. Landry is running a short slant inside. Tannehill looks there but safety Pat Chung is perfectly in place in the throwing lane. His secondary target, the tight end is covered by Jamie Collins inside.

Ryan Int

Tannehill then makes a bad decision and tries to force the ball into very tight coverage to wide receiver Rishard Matthews. He’s covered well by CB Logan Ryan who has safety help over the top. Tannehill has to loop the pass over Rob Ninkovich who’s in the flat and that gives Ryan plenty of time to undercut the route and make an easy interception.

Ryan Int2

Ryan Int3

This is a play indicative of the struggles the Dolphins have had on offense when their top option isn’t open. The Patriots will be looking to force Tannehill into making more of these type of mistakes.

Lewis 16-Yard TD: With the Patriots on the Miami 16-yard line, they used Gronkowski as a decoy and opened up the middle of the field for Lewis to score an easy pitch and catch touchdown from Brady.

The Patriots align with three receivers to the left and Gronkowski in-line on the right side. Lewis is to Brady’s right in the backfield. At the snap, Gronkowski runs straight up the seam and draws three defenders with him into the end zone. Lewis stays in as if to help block the defensive end.

Lewis 16 TD

Lewis then slips out into an empty middle of the field where Brady hits him at the 11-yard line. With no one around him Lewis has an easy scamper into the end zone.

Lewis 16 TD2

These are just some of the big plays that the Patriots were able to produce against Miami when the teams met in Week 8. Granted, their injuries have taken a toll and they may opt to attack in different ways this time around. But Gronkowski is the key here. The Dolphins don’t have anyone that can matchup with him and he’s a big mismatch in the middle of the field. He commands such attention that he’ll open up empty space for other receivers on offense.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Dolphins II, Key Matchups; Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 31, 2015 at 7:44 am ET

The New England Patriots travel down to South Florida for their final regular season game of the 2015 season to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS with the announcing crew of Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon on the call. The game can also be heard on the Patriots flagship radio station of 98.5 the Sports Hub with the voice of the Pats Bob Socci on the call with Scott Zolak.

The Dolphins (5-10) have been one of the bigger disappointments of 2015. They were expected to not only vie for a playoff spot this season but push the Patriots for the AFC East crown. After going thru an initial burst of two wins with interim coach Dan Campbell, the Fins are floundering and in the midst of a double-digit loss season. Big changes are coming for Miami this offseason.

New England (12-3), had a tough overtime loss against the Jets 26-20 on Sunday. However, with a win on Sunday, the Patriots clinch home field advantage for the AFC playoffs. Injuries continue to haunt the Pats as the team lost LT Sebastian Vollmer on Sunday. His replacement LaAdrian Waddle later went down as well.

The team was already without their two starting safeties (Devin McCourty and Pat Chung), two top wide receivers (Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola), and top two running backs (LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis) among others. Chung’s replacement Jordan Richards was hurt on the first play of OT and his replacement, Tavon Wilson was victimized on the very first play for a 48-yard gain that set the Jets up for the win.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2015 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History: The Patriots and Dolphins will meet for the 101th time on Sunday. The series was dominated by the Dolphins in during the middle years especially in Miami but the Patriots under Bill Belichick have turned the tide in recent years.

The teams have split their matchups the last two seasons with each winning at home. Miami won the season opener last season with the Patriots taking a December matchup in Foxboro. The Patriots blew out Miami on a Thursday night game earlier this season.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots – Dolphins, Who Has the Razor’s Edge? Key Matchups

Steve Balestrieri
October 28, 2015 at 6:06 am ET

The New England Patriots play the second game of their current three game home stand on Thursday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins. The game will be televised by the NFL Network, and will have CBS’ top announcing crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET

The Dolphins (3-3) have been re-energized and playing with passion under new coach Dan Campbell. After limping off to a 1-3 start under Joe Philbin, he was let go and the tough-minded, Campbell has brought physicality back to the team. They routed Tennessee 38-10 and then raced out to a 41-0 halftime lead over Houston before cruising to a 44-26 win.

New England (6-0), had a tough come-from-behind win on Sunday over the New York Jets 30-23. Tom Brady continued his stellar play passing for 355 yards and two touchdowns and was the Patriots leading rusher, adding a one yard touchdown run.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our  “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2015 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History: The Patriots and Dolphins will meet for the 100th time on Thursday night. The series was dominated by the Dolphins in during the middle years especially in Miami but the Patriots under Bill Belichick have turned the tide in recent years.

The Patriots hold a 32-17 advantage in their home games against Miami. The teams have split their matchups the last two seasons with each winning at home. Miami won the season opener last season with the Patriots taking a December matchup in Foxboro.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2015 at 6:12 am ET

The Patriots make a quick turnaround from their tough 30-23 win over the Jets on Sunday to play a Thursday Night Football matchup with a second division rival against the Miami Dolphins.

The Patriots ran their record to 6-0 with their come-from-behind win over the Jets which opened up a two game lead in the division. Tom Brady accounted for all but one of the Patriots yards on offense, throwing for 355 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 15 more including a one-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins improved their record to 3-3 with a 44-26 blowout win over the Houston Texans that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate. Miami raced out to a 41-0 halftime lead and was in cruise control the rest of the way. It was their second blowout win in a row under interim head coach Dan Campbell. They beat Tennessee 38-10 the week before.

The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and will be televised by the NFL Network and will have CBS’ top announcing crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

Here are our five first impressions of the Dolphins:

Campbell Building a Tougher, Physical Team:  The time was right for former coach Joe Philbin to go after a disastrous 1-3 start that culminated with back-to-back blowout losses at the hands of the Buffalo Bills and by the New York Jets in London.

Dan Campbell was the Dolphins tight ends coach under Philbin, after an 11-year career playing the position and has brought that tough attitude with him as the Fins new coach. We read that he immediately began his tenure by putting the team thru Oklahoma drills, something that would probably be reserved for training camp, but he was erasing the bad memories of the low-key Philbin and so far it has worked.

Campbell is using a lot of a the two tight end sets and they’re trying to get back to being a balanced team on offense, by having QB Ryan Tannehill roll out more and cutting down on his reads which has simplified things for him.

Campbell has re-energized a team that was supposed to compete for a playoff spot after spending a ton of cash in the off-season and was under-achieving on a large scale under Philbin. Two big wins in a row, albeit against lesser competition has them looking up again. Now on a short week they have to travel to New England and then up to Buffalo where they’ll look to avenge an early season blowout.

Teams didn’t know how to prepare for a Dan Campbell team as he had never coached before, now there are at least two games of tape on his Dolphins so things should get a bit harder for him.

Simplified Defense Has Awakened Pass Rush: Through the first four weeks of the season, the Dolphins defense, specifically the defensive line slept walked through the games with little to show for the money spent there with only one sack.

But new Miami defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has simplified things, and the Dolphins have gone back to being an attacking, aggressive defense, something the players were screaming for. After notching just a single sack in their first four games, Miami has gotten ten in the last two. Cameron Wake had four sacks a week ago against Tennessee and added two more against Houston. Ndamukong Suh got his first two sacks of the season last week and chipped in with six tackles.

Bill Belichick remarked in his Monday presser that the simplifying of things for the defense has helped the defense, specifically Suh. That has vaulted Miami’s defense from 30th at the time of the coaching change, all the way to 15th place now. They’ll be looking to tee off against Tom Brady on Thursday night against an offensive line that will still probably be missing two of its top three offensive tackles.

Running Game With Miller Has Exploded: Miami running back Lamar Miller wasn’t getting many touches under Philbin as the Dolphins were trying to throw the ball much more than they are now. Under Campbell, they are getting to be a more physical, running team and no one has responded better than Miller.

After carrying 19 times for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, he carried it 14 times for 185 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown run against the Texans. His added touches have ignited both his game and the offense, as he also caught three passes out of the backfield last week for 61 yards including a 54-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill.

“I wasn’t getting the ball that much. So every time I got it I was trying to make a big play, and I wasn’t reading my keys,” Miller told the Miami Herald. “Now, I’m trusting my offensive line more. They’ve been getting a lot of movement. I’m being patient and decisive.”

Tannehill Completes 25 passes in a row: Talk about a hot hand, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill finished off the Tennessee game completing his last seven passes. He started off against Houston hitting his first 18 in a row, setting a new NFL record in the process by hitting 25 passes in a row. He finished the game against the Texans going 18-19 for 282 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

His only incompletion was a drop by tight end Dion Sims on his last throw of the day.

Tannehill is finally playing like the man that Miami rewarded with a big contract during the off-season. Like many of the players on the team, he started slowly but has taken off during the last two weeks. His four touchdown passes on Sunday included three of 50 yards or more which is a great sign for the offensive to put points on the board quickly.

If the offense and Tannehill can keep up this kind of production during their last ten games, the Dolphins with a rejuvenated defense can make some noise in the AFC.

Young, Explosive WRs A Big Test for NE Secondary: The Patriots will be facing a team that has some nice weapons for Tannehill to and stretch the field. They brought in Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints in the off-season, but he hasn’t clicked yet catching only 10 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. He’s been slowed by a back injury. The team brought in veteran Greg Jennings and used their first round draft pick on DeVante Parker.

But it has been Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews who have been the biggest recipients of Tannehill’s passes thus far. Landry leads the team in receptions with 36 and also is a dangerous return threat either via punt returns or kickoffs. He scored on a 50-yard touchdown against Houston on Sunday when it seemed he weaved through the entire Texans’ team.

Matthews is emerging as the Dolphins deep threat this season. Matthews has caught 26 passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns. For a guy that was supposed to be the odd man out during training camp, the 6’0, 217 pound Texas alum has carved out a nice role for himself.

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