MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The last time the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints were on the field together, the Saints walked out of Sun Life Stadium with a shootout victory, 46-34.
Most of the players on the Dolphins side have changed, as have the coaches. But will it be enough to overcome the Saints’ Drew Brees and the team’s vastly improved defense?READ MORE: Vince Lago Wins Coral Gables Mayoral Race
The Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2002 and are trying to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1995.
“We have a special team,” said receiver Brian Hartline, who leads the Dolphins with 18 receptions for 238 yards and has two touchdowns. “Expectations will continue to rise, and high expectations bring out the best in you. We welcome it.”
The Dolphins have already shown their mettle with a 24-20 win at Indianapolis in Week 2, as well as a rally from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat Atlanta 27-23 last Sunday.
But Monday night, the Dolphins will see a big jump in competition from Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints defense has taken a major step forward under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Last year, the Saints gave up 440.1 yards and 28.4 points per game. This year, the first under Ryan, the Saints are giving up just 295.7 yards and 12.7 points per game.
“Any time you go into a situation where it’s a new defensive coordinator that’s installing a new defense, you always have the question of how you’re prepared,” said outside linebacker Parys Haralson, who has one of the Saints’ eight sacks. “Everybody was pretty confident in what they had, in what we have here. This is a defense full of talented players.”
New Orleans allowed an 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game against Arizona last Sunday, then forced eight punts and recorded two interceptions on the Cardinals’ next 10 possessions in a 31-7 victory.READ MORE: Road To Reopening: Miami-Dade, Broward Public Schools Planning 100% In-Person Instruction In The Fall
“(Ryan’s) going to give you a variety of coverages,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said. “Our quarterbacks and receivers are going to have to be on the same page. And then he has a very good pressure package, so he’s a very good coach.”
Then there’s Brees.
After throwing three TDs and three interceptions in the first two games, he threw for three touchdowns, ran for one and was picked off once against the Cardinals.
With 342 passing yards last weekend, Brees has thrown for at least 300 in eight consecutive games – averaging 358.1 yards and completing 18 touchdowns during that stretch.
“We know we’ve went against some talented quarterbacks already, but Drew Brees presents another tough challenge, but we’ll be up for it,” Miami cornerback Brent Grimes said.
The Dolphins also must contend with tight end Jimmy Graham, who was targeted 31 times and caught 19 passes for 313 yards and three TDs in the last two games.
Though New Orleans entered the week ranked fourth in the NFL with an average of 318.7 yards through the air, it’s near the bottom of the league with 3.5 per rush.
The running game could improve if star Miami defensive end Cameron Wake sits because of a knee injury suffered Sunday.MORE NEWS: Sens. Rubio, Scott Say It’s Too Soon To Weigh In On Gaetz's Future
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)