Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill gets his first look at the division rival Patriots and their franchise QB Tom Brady this week in what amounts to the Dolphins entire playoff lives. At 5-6, Miami needs to win this at home to stay in the hunt for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot. This is the toughest two week stretch of the season for Miami, facing the Patriots at home this week, with the 49ers in San Francisco looming next week.
New England comes in with a few extra days rest after last playing on Thanksgiving night in New York. They do have some injury concerns however, as TE Rob Gronkowski and rookie DE Chandler Jones both should be out of action. Offensive lineman Logan Mankins is also a candidate to miss the game another blow to the Patriot offense.
MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
That offense though, should not be a problem. New England is its usual explosive self this season and Brady is on an amazing tear the past 5 games amassing 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions in that span. Now he will face a Miami secondary that has been extremely leaky to put it mildly. Adding to that, the only real injury the Dolphins team has dealt with this season is starting CB Richard Marshall who is on IR. That’s one position the Dolphins can ill afford to not have all hands on deck for.
With Brady figuring to have a big game, the onus will then fall onto Tannehill to attempt to match Brady throw for throw. Last season in the opener, Chad Henne attempted to do that same thing passing for a career high 416 yards and 2 touchdowns with another touchdown rushing, and still lost by 14 points. Ryan will have his work cut out for him greatly. It would be in Miami’s best interest to try and run the ball at a very successful rate to keep the clock moving, hold onto the ball, and keep Brady on the sideline.
The Patriots will be ready for that, and have DT Vince Wilfork in the middle of their defense for just those reasons. C Mike Pouncey will need to have the game of his life to contain Wilfork all day and give the Dolphins their best chance at moving the chains slowly but effectively. If the Pats get any sort of lead and force the Dolphins into being one dimensional and put the game on a rookie QB’s shoulders, it could be curtains for this game, their playoff hopes, and this season in general.
Ryan should be able to make a few throws against the Patriots defense who has given up their share of big games to opposing QB’s, however they are very smart and opportunistic when it comes to making game changing plays that cripple the opposing team. The 2012 season, could come down to how well the Dolphins fare in this game. Historically the Dolphins have done well at home in December against the Patriots, they’ll need to do so again in order to win this key game.