Tale Of The Tape: Miami Dolphins At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Dolphins have struggled badly and have now lost three consecutive games after winning their first three. Some of this is on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has lacked the consistency in his game that he showed earlier this season and during his rookie year. Tannehill has good mobility and can throw on the move, but he does not have a powerful arm.This has not been the kind of stellar season that Tom Brady has usually enjoyed, and the lack of talent at the wide receiver position is a big reason for the downturn. However, Brady has made some poor throws, including the interception for a touchdown that Antonio Allen of the Jets returned in Week Seven. Brady’s performance should pick up with the return of Rob Gronkowski.
- OffenseThe Dolphins don’t have the kind of offense that is going to allow them to reel off three consecutive touchdowns and blow out an opponent. Running back Lamar Miller lacks special qualities, but he is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Brian Hartline has excellent hands and can make key catches to keep drives alive. Mike Wallace has the speed to stretch the defense and make big plays.Stevan Ridley appears to have recaptured the starting running back position, but he could lose it if his fumbling problem returns. The Pats got a huge lift from the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski. His timing with Brady is not where it will be in another week or two, but he is the team’s best downfield weapon. Julian Edelman is versatile and reliable.
- DefenseThe Dolphins have not been overwhelming on defense, as they rank 20th in total yards allowed. Outside linebacker Philip Wheeler has a team-high 43 tackles and he is not going to let may ball carriers slip through his grasp. The Dolphins don’t have enough playmakers on defense, but middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has 40 tackles and two fumble recoveries.The Pats have been wrecked by injuries on defense. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and middle linebacker Jerod Mayo, arguably their two best players on that side of the ball, are out for the season. Top cover corner Aqib Talib (hip) did not play against the Jets, but he could be back for this game. Strong safety Steve Gregory has 45 tackles, the most of any active defensive player.
- Special TeamsThe Dolphins do a decent job in the punt and kickoff coverage, but they would like to get more from return specialist Marcus Thigpen. Placekicker Caleb Sturgis is fairly reliable as he has made 10-of-12 FG attempts, while Brandon Fields is averaging 49.9 yards per punt.The Patriots do an excellent job in the punt and kickoff coverage, and Edelman is capable of giving them a boost in coverage. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most consistent field goal kickers in the league, having made 18-of-19 three-point attempts this season.
The Pats are coming off a painful loss in Week Seven. They responded to their earlier loss with their best game of the season, a win over the Saints. Look for a strong showing from Bill Belichick’s team as it returns home to face another divisional rival. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor