Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Dolphins have had plenty of time to put together the final touches on the game plan for Monday night’s matchup against AFC East rival, the New England Patriots, now they just have to execute.
Primary among the things the Dolphins need to accomplish in the game is defending their home field. Last season, the Dolphins were 1-7 in the confines of Sun Life Stadium. If the Fins want to have a shot at the playoffs, they have to win at home and a win Monday night will be big for the team’s 2011 future.
All eyes will be focused on Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. The unquestioned starter is in a quarterback friendly offense, helmed by Brian Daboll, and now Henne has to produce. His first test is going against Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s defense.
That’s a stiff test for Henne, but Daboll has conquered the Pats with a much worse team before. Last season, Daboll’s offense waxed the New England Patriots 34-12. His offense piled up 404 yards of total offense, including 230 rushing yards.
Daboll has a lot more to work with in Miami, if the Fins can give Henne protection and open holes for the running backs.
That job will fall to the interior offensive line for the Dolphins. The Fins’ interior line will have to match-up with both Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive end Albert Haynesworth. Center Mike Pouncey and guard Vernon Carey will have to open some holes for Reggie Bush for the Fins to have a chance.
On the outside, right tackle Marc Colombo has been a disappointment in everyone’s eyes except Fins head coach Tony Sparano. Colombo’s job will be to help seal the edge and give Henne enough time to throw as the Patriots unleash their pass rush on the Fins.
For the Fins defense, it’s all about getting pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Historically, when Brady is under pressure, he plays his worst games. The 34-year-old Brady will be protected by a rookie right tackle, Nate Solder, playing his second game at the position, and Matt Light at left tackle.
If Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, Jason Taylor and others can get past Solder and Light, it’s going to be a very long game for Brady. The Patriots will likely try to capitalize on the Dolphins’ blitzes with quick passes and screens.
Still, the Patriots’ offensive line has issues and this opens up a big hole for the Dolphins’ front seven, which is second to none in the NFL.
Finally, as every Dolphins fan can vividly remember, it’s all about special teams. Last season the Patriots abused the Fins’ special teams units early and often. The Fins’ special teams tackling must at least slow down the Pats’ players to have a chance at winning Monday night.
The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Sun Life Stadium.