Last week, it was against the Jets on Sunday Night Football. Tonight, it's the Patriots on Monday Night Football. That's two straight weeks the Dolphins face an AFC East rival in the national spotlight. Also, it's two straight weeks they face a team with an insufferable fanbase. So tonight is a must-win game for the Fins on many levels.
Last week, the team asked fans to howl like a wolf whenever the defense was on the field, in keeping with the whole "Feed The Wolf" mantra they've adopted this season. But the wolf was less like a crazed carnivorous beast looking for blood and more like the emaciated wolf in that Kevin Coster movie with the Native Americans and all the buffalo. On the offensive side, there was the utter failure that has become the impetus-killing formation known as the Wildcat. Enough with the animals, already. We get it. Tonight, let's drop anything having to do with cats and dogs or any other animal-metaphor to show everyone how tough we are. Tonight needs to just be about playing football. That, and attacking Tom Brady like a pack of rabid hyenas. Let's all show up tonight and laugh like hyenas whenever the defense is on the field!
1. Let The Robot Feed The Beast: The Dolphins have been treating Chad Henne like a two year old who's been entrusted to drink out of a regular cup for the first time. It's understandable. He's a young QB. And he needs to be weaned properly into the NFL. He needs caring and nurturing. We don't want to do anything to rattle his confidence and ruin his young quarterback psyche. We believe in you, Chad. You've got all the tools to succeed in this league. NOW DON'T THROW ANY INTERCEPTIONS OR SO HELP US GOD WE WILL TIE ALL FOUR OF YOUR LIMBS ONTO FOUR OF BILL PARCELLS' PRIZED RACE HORSES AND THEN FIRE A GUN INTO THE AIR!
Forget that crap. Last week, Henne threw for almost 400 yards against the vaunted Jets defense. Last year, he decimated the Patriots secondary with a 355-yard, two touchdown performance at Sun Life Stadium. And that was without Brandon Marshall. You want Henne to grow as a QB? Let him loose. Yes, he infuriatingly holds on to the football too long sometimes. But when he does release it, he releases the shit out of it. And now he has Marshall to throw it to.
New England's cornerbacks have been spectacularly bad this season. Devin McCourty has given up 238 yards to opposing receivers. Darius Butler has been tagged with 253 yards by opposing quarterbacks. That's Jamar Fletcher-esque in its ineptness. The stats are there. You want to win against the Pats, throw the damn ball. All night long. And then, just for kicks, completely destroy any momentum gained via the passing game and run the Wildcat for no or negative yards and then punt. Hooray innovative play calling!
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2. Get Back to the Mind-Bending Quarterback Wrecking Blitz Packages: The main (only, really) reason the Dolphins started off the season with two straight wins this season was because of the stellar play by the Miami defense. There's a tendency for this coaching staff to over think things sometimes, rather than just go with what works. And what works for the Dolphins is a blitz-crazy defense that mauls quarterbacks like a gamma-ray infused grizzly bear.
Tom Brady is 3-5 at Sun Life Stadium. He's thrown seven interceptions here. Part of the reason had been Jason Taylor, who sold his soul to the troglodytes and their glazed ham inhaling head coach in the Meadowlands. No biggie. Cameron Wake is now the guy down here. And he's at his best when free to roam and destroy quarterbacks on a whim. Brady will look to counter this by throwing to talented tight end Aaron Hernandez (because we suck balls covering tight ends, you see). So Nolan needs to release the Kraken tonight, and let Wake do his thing against offensive tackle Matt Light and his silly beard. Want to keep Hernandez or Randy Moss from killing you? Release the Kraken. Brady can't complete passes when he's on his ass. True story.
3. That Thing Where We Give the Opposing Offense the Ball on the Forty Needs to Stop: The Fins coverage team has been craptacularly crappy this season. They're allowing 29.3 yards per return. It seemed like every time the Jets had the ball last week, they started on their own 40 yard line. The Patriots are coming in tonight with a very strong special teams unit. The special teams unit needs to understand that it's perfectly legal to tackle the opposing player when he's running with the football.
Tonight is a pretty much must-win situation for Miami. Win, and they enter the bye week with a solid 3-1 record in second place in the division. Lose, and it's 2-2 (1-2 against the division) and a week to prepare to travel to Green Bay to stop the bleeding. The Dolphins can win tonight if they stick to the game plan. And that game plan is pressure Brady and throw the ball to Brandon Marshall as often as humanly possible. It's not every week you get to stuff it in the face of Bill Belichick and the NFL Network "experts." So, take advantage of this opportunity!