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Game Preview: Dolphins at Patriots

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-3) at MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-11)
Sunday, December 29, 2019 at 1 p.m. ET. Gillette Stadium.

The New England Patriots will close out the 2019 regular season at home against the Miami Dolphins. New England shut out Miami, 43-0, in the first meeting of the year on Sept. 15 at Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots look to become the third NFL team since 1976 to shutout an opponent twice in the same season. In 2002 the Atlanta Falcons shut out the Carolina Panthers 30-0 and 41-0. The 1976 Denver Broncos shutout the San Diego Chargers twice in 1976 with 26-0 and 17-0 victories.

PATRIOTS LOOK TO LOCK UP PLAYOFF BYE

The Patriots lead the NFL with 14 first-round byes since the current NFL playoff format was instituted in 1990. The Patriots earned a first-round bye for the ninth consecutive season in 2018, becoming the first team in NFL history to do so. With a win over Miami on Sunday, New England will claim a first-round playoff bye for the 10th straight year. Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992-95 and Denver had four straight from 2012-15.

Capsule courtesy of NFL.
Capsule courtesy of NFL.

SERIES HISTORY

The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will square off for the second of two meetings in 2019. The Patriots beat the Dolphins, 43-0, in the first meeting on Sept. 15 at Hard Rock Stadium to snap a two-game losing streak at Miami. The teams have split the annual series in each of the last two seasons with the Patriots winning at home and losing at Miami.

Last season, the teams split the annual series with the Patriots taking a 38-7 win at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 30, 2018, and the Dolphins winning the rematch at Miami on Dec. 9, 2018, with a 34-33 victory.

The Patriots have had the upper hand at home against Miami, holding a 35-17 record in games played in New England in the regular season, including a 15-2 record at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are 17-38 all-time in Miami, including two postseason contests. Miami beat New England at Gillette Stadium for the first time in the final game of the 2005 season, when Patriots starting QB Tom Brady was pulled from action after the first quarter. Miami also beat New England, 38-13, at Gillette Stadium, on Sept. 21, 2008, when Tom Brady was on injured reserve.

The Dolphins and Patriots met for the first time in 1966 and began playing twice a year during the 1967 regular season, except in 1982 during a players' strike.

The two have played three times in the postseason with New England holding a 2-1 advantage.

SERIES BREAKDOWN

MIAMI 55, NEW ENGLAND 53
(Including New England 2, Miami 1 in Playoffs)

Record in New England 36-17 (Incl. 1-0 in playoffs)

  • Record in Foxborough 34-15 (1-0)
  • Record in Boston 2-2

Record in Miami 17-38 (Incl. 1-1 in playoffs)

  • Record at Dolphins / Hard Rock 13-20
  • Record at Orange Bowl 3-18 (1-1)
  • Record in Tampa* 1-0

Season Sweeps: Patriots 10, Dolphins 13

Season Splits: 28 (Most recent 2018)

Bill Belichick vs. Miami: 25-17 (25-14 with New England)

*A Miami home game was played in Tampa in 1969.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots

For the second week in a row the Patriots ground game showed signs of life. Sony Michel ran with authority against a tough Bills defense and Rex Burkhead added some energy and quickness to the equation as well. In all the Patriots finished with 143 yards on the ground and averaged 4.1 yards per carry in doing so. Coming off a 175-yard rushing performance in Cincinnati, the Patriots suddenly have some momentum on the ground to carry into the playoffs. Of course the Dolphins still stand in the way, but since Miami allows 135.4 yards per game on the ground it's likely that the recent surge continues. Miami has dealt with lots of injuries throughout the lineup this season and even when healthy it hasn't shown much ability to stop the run, ranking 27th in the league. The linebackers have been hit particular hard as Raekwon McMillan and James Crawford are on IR, leaving a lot of question marks behind. Look for the Patriots to continue to pound away, perhaps with Elandon Roberts expanding his role as fullback to help the cause. Michel still hasn't hit the century mark this season, but he'll have an opportunity against Miami to close it out.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Patriots

Much like the running game, New England's air attack looked great against the Bills. After several weeks of mediocre efforts, Tom Brady completed nearly 80 percent of his throws and worked the ball around to nine different receivers. That also has a chance to continue against a Dolphins secondary that is without its best player (Xavien Howard) and ranks 28th in the league by allowing 265.4 yards per game. Julian Edelman is still dealing with obvious pain, both with his shoulder and knee. But the Patriots may not be able to afford sitting him out given his importance to the offense and the significance of the game. Assuming he plays the Patriots should have no trouble finding receivers against Miami corners Nik Needham and Jomal Wiltz. Look for Josh McDaniels to continue to look for ways to get N'Keal Harry more involved, and perhaps for Mohamed Sanu to bounce back after a couple of slow weeks. Either way, the Patriots should have more than enough to cause some problems for Miami.

When the Dolphins run - Edge: Patriots

Miami's running game is beyond abysmal, ranking dead last with an average of 72.9 yards per game. How bad is it? Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the team in rushing with 228 yards on 49 carries. The leading rusher in terms of carries is Kalen Ballage, who had 74 attempts before landing on IR. He averaged 1.8 yards per carry on those 74 attempts. So, any concerns about the Patriots run defense should be alleviated completely in this one. Miami hasn't moved the ball on the ground all season and will be using Patrick Laird and perhaps newcomer Samaje Perine to try to do so in this one. This shapes up as an enormous edge for New England. Lawrence Guy dominated the line of scrimmage against the Bills and is wrapping up the best season of his career. Danny Shelton has been rock solid as well. That tandem should be enough to keep the Dolphins from having any designs on moving the ball on the ground.

When the Dolphins pass - Edge: Patriots

Fitzpatrick having one of his rare "on" days is about the only way the Dolphins might find a way to move the football in this one. The veteran journeyman has played to his career with short periods of success sandwiched around much longer stretches of recklessness where ball security is an issue. He's thrown 13 interceptions in part-time work and generally gives the opponent plenty to chances to make plays on the ball. However, he can also get hot and in DeVante Parker he has a legitimate weapon on the outside. Parker is enjoying his best season, leading the Dolphins with 64 catches for 1,065 yards and nine touchdowns. All represent career highs. Fortunately the Patriots will likely match up Stephon Gilmore on Parker, and that's a battle that Gilmore has generally won in past meetings. Parker is capable to high-pointing the ball and making plays in traffic, and he'll need to do that against the Patriots if Miami is to have a chance. Tight end Mike Gesicki (47 catches, 536 yards, 4 TDs) is also enjoying a solid year in an otherwise moribund season in South Florida. Look for Fitzpatrick to lean heavily on both in an effort to keep the Dolphins competitive.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

Jason Sanders has been pretty reliable as the Dolphins kicker, making 26 of 27 PATs as well as 21 of 28 field goals with six of those misses coming from beyond 40 yards. Nick Folk has quietly emerged as a steadying presence in the Patriots kicking game, however, after nailing a 51-yarder against Buffalo last week. Jakeem Grant had been dangerous in the return game with a 101-yard touchdown to his credit before landing on IR, but the Patriots coverage units have been quite strong all season. And their ability to block punts and change games has been impressive. Look for Belichick and special teams coach Joe Judge to continue tinkering with his punt block unit, occasionally rushing nine and leaving no one deep to receive the kick as he goes after the block. It's been a valuable weapon for the team all season and could remain that way in the playoffs. The Patriots strong play in the kicking game gives New England the clean sweep in the matchups this week.

QUICK HITS

  • Since Bill Belichick became Patriots head coach in 2000, New England is 25-14 (.641) against Miami.
  • Since 2000, the Patriots are 93-30 (.756) against AFC East opponents. New England is 25-14 against the Dolphins over that span, 30-10 against the New York Jets and 35-5 against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots were 3-1 against Indianapolis from 2000 through 2001 when they were in the AFC East.
  • The Patriots have not been swept in their season series with a divisional opponent since 2000, when they lost both games to Miami and New York.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2019 REGULAR SEASON NEW ENGLAND MIAMI
Record 12-3 4-11
Divisional Standings 1st 4th
Total Yards Gained 5,312 4,571
Total Offense (Rank) 354.1 (16) 304.7 (27)
Rush Offense 104.5 (19) 72.9 (32)
Pass Offense 249.6 (9) 231.9 (15)
Points Per Game 26.4 (6) 18.6 (25t)
Total Yards Allowed 4,025 6,012
Total Defense (Rank) 268.3 (1) 400.8 (32)
Rush Defense 97.7 (7) 135.4 (27)
Pass Defense 170.7 (2) 265.4 (28)
Points Allowed / Game 13.2 (1) 31.3 (32)
Possession Avg. 32:04 28:17
Sacks Allowed / Yards Lost 27/188 56/299
Sacks Made / Yards 45/314 22/151
Total Touchdowns Scored 46 31
Penalties Against / Yards 88/774 88/734
Punts / Avg. 77/44.9 65/45.2
Turnover Differential +23 (1) -12 (29)

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON

QB TOM BRADY: Completed 26 of 33 passes (season-high 78.8 pct.) for 271 yards with TD for 111 rating last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 0 INTs. Has passed for 622 yards (311 per game) with 5 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 117.2 rating in past 2 vs. Mia. Has 539 career TD passes, tying Peyton Manning for second-most all-time.

QB RYAN FITZPATRICK: Passed for career-high 419 yards with 4 TDs vs. INT for 103 rating last week, his 4th-career game with 400+ pass yards & 4+ TD passes, tied 4th-most all-time. Aims for 3rd in row with 2+ TD passes & 90+ rating. Has 95+ rating in 2 of his past 3 on road vs. NE. Needs 291 pass yards for 3rd-career season with 3,500 pass yards.

TOM BRADY VS. MIAMI

Tom Brady is scheduled to start at quarterback against Miami for the 35th time in his career and has compiled a 23-11 record against the Dolphins, including a 15-1 record in home games. Brady is 86-20 in his career as a starter in the regular season against AFC East opponents, with 11 of the 20 losses coming to the Dolphins. One of those losses was in the final game of the 2005 season, when Brady was pulled after the first quarter.

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CONNECTIONS

FORMER DOLPHINS

  • RB Brandon Bolden - Running Back (2018)

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • GM Chris Grier - Coaching Intern (1994), Regional Scout (1995-99). Father Bobby Grier - VP of
  • Player Personnel (1995-99).
  • HC Brian Flores - Defensive Assistant Coach (2003-18)
  • DC Patrick Graham - Defensive Assistant Coach (2009-15)
  • OC Chad O'Shea - Wide Receivers Coach (2009-18)
  • Asst. QB Coach Jerry Schuplinski - Assistant Quarterbacks Coach (2013-18)
  • Cornerbacks Coach Josh Boyer - Defensive Assistant Coach (2006-18)
  • OL Coach Dave DeGuglielmo - OL Coach (2014-15)
  • DQC Mike Judge - Coaching Assistant (2005-06)
  • CB Eric Rowe - Defensive Back (2015-18)
  • DL Trent Harris - Defensive Line (2018-19)
  • CB Nate Brooks - Defensive Back (2019)
  • LB Calvin Munson - Linebacker (2018-19)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Entering Week 17, the Patriots defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. If they close the season as the league's top-ranked defensive unit, it will mark the team's first No. 1 defensive ranking in franchise history. The previous season-long best was No. 3 in 1970. The highest ranking for a Bill Belichick-coached defense was No. 4 in 2007.
  • The Patriots shut out the Dolphins, 43-0, in the first meeting of the year on Sept. 15 at Miami. The Patriots can become the third NFL team since 1976 to shutout an opponent twice in one season. In 2002, the Atlanta Falcons shut out the Carolina Panthers 30-0 and 41-0. The 1976 Denver Broncos shutout the San Diego Chargers two times in 1976 with a 26-0 win and a 17-0 win.
  • Entering Week 17, the Patriots lead the league in points per game allowed with 13.2. If they maintain their No. 1 ranking, it will be the third time under Bill Belichick. The Patriots previously had the No. 1 fewest points per game allowed in 2016 (15.6) and 2003 (14.9).
  • In 2019, the Patriots lead the league with a +23 turnover margin entering Week 17. If they close the season at +23, it will rank as the third-best turnover differential in team history. They registered a +28 turnover margin in 2010 and a +25 turnover margin in 2012.
  • The Patriots defense has allowed 18 touchdowns this season. If they hold the Dolphins to two or fewer scores, they will become the 20th defense since the 16-game schedule was instituted to let up 20 or fewer scores.
  • The Patriots have not allowed a 300-yard passer in 24-straight regular season games (dating back to Week 8 2018), the longest active streak in the NFL, and will look to extend that to 25-straight games against the Bills. Their current streak of 24 games is the fifth longest such streak in team history and the longest since going 31 straight games without allowing a 300-yard passer from 1981-83.
  • With one defensive score, the Patriots will tie the franchise record for most defensive scores in a season with six.
  • Since 2001, the Patriots are 97-13 (.882) when they do not turn the ball over and 95-3 (.969) with a positive turnover margin.
  • The Patriots have scored 396 points so far in 2019. With four or more points against the Dolphins, the Patriots will reach the 400-point threshold on the season for the 13th consecutive year, extending their own NFL record. The Chargers previously held the record by scoring at least 400 points in eight consecutive seasons from 2004-11. New Orleans has a current streak of nine straight seasons with 400 points (including 2019).
  • If the Patriots shut out the Dolphins, they will finish the season having allowed 198 points all year. Since the 16-game schedule was instituted, only seven teams have allowed fewer than 200 points in a season, four of whom went on to win the Super Bowl. The franchise record for fewest points allowed in a season is 237 in 2006. The record for a Bill-Belichick coached team is the 1994 Browns, which gave up 204 points.
  • The Patriots have blocked four punts in 2019, a franchise record. With two more blocked punts this season, they would tie the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs for the most blocked punts in a season in NFL history with six.
  • The Patriots defense leads the league with 25 interceptions entering Week 17. With one more pick, the team would register the fourth-highest interception tally in a season in team history and second-highest under Bill belichick.
  • The Patriots have held teams to just 42-for-183 (23.0%) on third down in 2019, the league best. If they hold the Dolphins to fewer than seven third downs, they will set a new record for the fewest third downs allowed in a 16-game season. The 1991 New Orleans Saints set the record with 49 third downs allowed. Against the Jets in Week 3, the Patriots did not allow a single third-down conversion, a feat they've achieved five times since 2000. Only five teams have managed to allow zero third downs twice in the same season: Packers (2005), Eagles (2009), Giants (2010), Dolphins (2011) and Saints (2013).
  • Belichick is 41-0 since 2000 when leading the Patriots to a 40-point outing. He is 129-7 (.949) when leading the Patriots to a 30-point outing and 212-35 (.859) when leading them to a 20-point outing.
  • With a start against the Dolphins, Brady will have started every game for 16 seasons, tying Peyton Manning for second in NFL history. Brett Favre is first, having started every game in 17 seasons in his career.
  • With 41 passing attempts this week, Brady would reach 10,000 throws in his career, becoming just the third player in NFL history to reach that mark. Brett Favre is first with 10,169 passing attempts and Drew Brees is second with 10,131 attempts.
  • With 164 yards passing against the Dolphins, Brady will reach 4,000 yards passing on the season for the 11th time in his career. That tie Philip Rivers for fourth-most seasons with 4,000 yards passing in NFL History.
  • Entering Week 17, Brady's 539 regular-season touchdown passes are tied with Peyton Manning for second all-time, behind Drew Brees (544).
  • With 300 or more yards passing, Brady will record his 93rd 300-yard passing game, tying Peyton Manning for second in NFL history. Drew Brees is first with 120 300-yard games. The Patriots are 76-16 in Brady's 300-yard passing games.
  • With 30 or more completions against Miami, Brady will register his 40th career game with 30 or more completions, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for second-most in NFL history.
  • Brady has 74,450 career passing yards in the regular season, second-most in NFL history to the 77,163 by Drew Brees.

IF THE PATRIOTS WIN...

  • The Patriots will clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs for the 14th time since 2001, a feat unmatched by any team in the last 19 years. The Patriots will also extend their NFL record with their 10th straight season earning a first-round bye. Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992-95 and Denver had four straight from 2012-15.
  • The Patriots will finish the season with 13 wins for the eighth time in franchise history, second in NFL history to the nine 13-win seasons tallied by the 49ers.
  • The Patriots own an NFL-best record of 91-24 (.791) in regular-season division games since 2001 and can improve that mark with a win against the Bills.
  • The Patriots will improve to 89-30 (.748) from December through the end of the regular season since Kraft purchased the team in 1994.
  • The Patriots will improve their winning percentage versus division opponents from November until the end of the season since realignment in 2002.
  • The Patriots will finished the season with a perfect 6-0 mark against the AFC East for the third time in team history. The Patriots were undefeated (6-0) in AFC East play in 2007 and 2012.
  • The Patriots will earn their 115th win on or after Thanksgiving since 2001 (including playoffs).
  • The Patriots will extend their NFL record and close the decade with the most regular-season wins in a decade (2010-present) with 126. The team will also extend their record for the most total wins in a decade to 142, including the playoffs.
  • ... and a player eclipses 100 yards rushing, the team will improve to 52-1 in the regular season since 2000 when a player rushes for at least 100 yards. It would also mark the first time this season the Patriots had a 100-yard rusher.
  • The Patriots will improve to 47-7 (.870) against divisional opponents at home since Gillette Stadium opened.
  • ... and hold the advantage at the half, the Patriots will improve to 101-1 all-time at Gillette Stadium when leading at halftime.
  • The Patriots will earn their 185th home victory since 1994 (including postseason), extending their league record during that time.
  • Belichick will earn his eighth 13-win season as a head coach, extending his own NFL record. George Seifert is second with four 13-win seasons.
  • Belichick will improve his all-time regular-season record against the AFC East as head coach of the Patriots to 94-30 (.758).
  • Belichick will earn his 305th all-time win (regular and postseason) as a head coach, which is third in NFL history behind Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324). It will also mark Belichick's 274th regular-season win, behind Shula (328) and Halas (318).
  • Brady will earn his 250th career win (including postseason), extending his NFL record for a quarterback, and will be 50 wins ahead of Peyton Manning, who is second with 200 career wins.
  • Brady will earn his 87th career regular-season victory against an AFC East opponent, improving his mark as a starter in division play to 86-20 (.811).
  • Brady will earn his 24th regular-season victory against the Dolphins. He is also the only quarterback in NFL history to have more than 20 wins against three different teams.
  • Brady will improve to 64-15 (.810) in the month of December, the most wins in NFL history. His winning percentage in December is second all-time among quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with at least 20 starts. Roger Staubach is first (17-3, .850).
  • Brady will claim his 220th regular-season win, second in NFL history.

BROADCAST INFO

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Ken Mack and directed by Suzanne Smith.

NATIONAL RADIO: Sunday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Sports USA Radio. Larry Kahn will call the game with Hank Bauer providing analysis. Troy West will report from the sidelines.

SATELLITE RADIO: 137 (Mia), 81 (NE) - XM: 380 (Mia), 225 (NE)

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 38 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

For information on how to stream the game please visit our Ways to Watch guide.

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