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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Using some occasional trickery against the Patriots has previously been a winning formula for the Dolphins.
The last time Miami won at New England was in 2008, when Tom Brady was sidelined for the season and the Dolphins sprung the wildcat on Patriots coach Bill Belichick in a 38-13 rout.
Trickery is also a big reason why the Dolphins will arrive at Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 3-0 record and sitting atop the AFC East . They haven’t been 4-0 since 1995 — Don Shula’s last season as coach.
But getting there again will be tough. Since the Dolphins’ 2008 win, the Patriots have won nine straight at home in the series. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 14-1 at home as a starter against Miami. His lone loss was in the final game of the 2005 season, when he was pulled after the first quarter.
Miami will also be facing a New England team that has lost two in a row and is coming off a humbling 26-10 loss at Detroit that underscored the Patriots’ weaknesses on both sides of the ball. The Patriots haven’t started 1-3 since 2001.
“Any time you play them at their place, it’s a challenge,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “That’s why they’re one of the best teams. If you look at the last 15 years, it’s ridiculous how well they do at home compared to everybody else. The crowd is extremely loud, and it’s a tough environment to play in.”
After missing last season because of a torn ACL in his left knee, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has started this season strong. He has completed 73 percent of his passes, while throwing seven touchdowns and just two interceptions.
He has won 10 of his past 11 starts overall, but he’s 0-5 in games at Foxborough, with five touchdown passes and nine interceptions in those games.
“We’ve had our opportunities up there,” Tannehill said. “We’ve put halves of football together, but haven’t played a full game. That’s going to be a big emphasis for us this week — to go up and play a full four quarters.”
Despite some issues over the past two weeks, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said there is no sense of panic inside their locker room. New England started 2-2 last season, before recovering to win the AFC championship.
“You’ve just got to keep going forward, no matter what it is, if you’re winning or if you’re losing,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to just put that week behind you. … Just got to keep on grinding.”
Here are some things to watch for in Sunday’s game:
BRADY VS. FINS: Miami is the only NFL team with at least 10 victories against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The reigning regular-season MVP is 21-10 against the Dolphins. The 10 losses are his most against any franchise. Brady is 76-19 as a starter in regular-season games against AFC East opponents.
Records aside, Miami safety Reshad Jones said he is expecting to get Brady’s best.
“He’s probably one of the best to ever do it,” Jones said. “We’ve got our hands full. It’s going to be a challenge for us. … I think we’ll be ready.”
CLOSE CALLS: All three of Miami’s victories this season have been by eight or fewer points.
The Dolphins are 16-5 in one-score games under Gase. They are 3-12 in games decided by more than one score.
PATRIOTS PAST: Receiver Danny Amendola isn’t the only Dolphins newcomer with a history in New England. Running back Brandon Bolden was with the Patriots for six years until they released him just before the start of this season.
Bolden has quickly become a cog on Miami’s special teams, and he and Amendola share important traits, Gase said.
“They love football. They love practicing. They bring great energy on game day. Whatever they have, they give it,” Gase said. “Those two are as professional as I’ve ever seen on NFL football players. Every day I see them, I’m glad they’re here.”
INJURY CONCERNS: New England has struggled with consistency this season and enters this game with several key contributors on the mend.
Starting defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung both sat out the Detroit loss with concussions and practiced on a limited basis this week. The Patriots also placed running back Rex Burkhead (neck) and rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on injured reserve Wednesday.
Those are big blows to a defense giving up 406 yards per game and an offense yet to score a rushing touchdown this season.
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