As the Patriots prepare to play the Miami Dolphins, Mike Reiss posted a "stat check" on ESPN Boston to compare the two teams in a variety of different categories. The Dolphins strength is on defense, specifically in the secondary. Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe says that the Patriots will face a 'surging Dolphins secondary' on Sunday who has been strong all year. Miami is giving up only 203 passing yeards per game in 2014, which is good for third-best in the NFL.
"The Dolphins also have 12 interceptions through 13 games, and held Tom Brady to a 29-for-56 passing day the first times the teams met," writes Whitmer. "Sunday is the second meeting, at Gillette Stadium, and how well the Patriots do against a confident Miami secondary could go a long way toward deciding the outcome."
Unfortunately for the Patriots, Tom Brady and the offense hasn't been performing at their usual level over the past few weeks. Andy Hart of Patriots Football Weekly joined Gary Tanguay and Chris Gasper on Comcast SportsNet's 'Early Edition' to talk about the team's offensive struggles. Hart thinks the biggest issue has been the offensive line, which has allowed a lot of pressure in back-to-back weeks.
"I think it starts with one thing, that's the offensive line," said Hart. "There's too much pressure again. I know some people will say, 'he's only been sacked once,' but look at the pressure. Look at the times he's been hit."
While both Hart and Gasper agree that Tom Brady isn't at fault for the issues on offense, the good news for the Patriots is that they don't necessarily need the future Hall of Famer to be at his best in order to win. In past years, the Patriots success fell almost entirely on Brady's shoulders. When he played well, the team usually won, but if he didn't...well, just take a look at the Patriots most recent playoff losses.
However, this year is different. This year, they have a defense. In fact, Mike Freeman of the Bleacher Report says that Brady isn't even the most important player on the team. He says the key to the Patriots success is Darrelle Revis who has been spectacular in recent weeks. Furthermore, Freeman believes this is the best Patriots team since their last Super Bowl win back in 2005.
"The Patriots have always had Brady, who has always won them games. Lots of games. Lots of Super Bowls. But now they have something different," Freeman explains. "Now they have a defense that can punch you in the mouth the way the offense does. Now, most of all, they have Revis."
Freeman believes that the Patriots 'grittiness' is changing everything for the defense, and one of the main reasons for that change is Brandon Browner. Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald thinks that Browner's style is a perfect fit for the Patriots defense. He's brought an intimidation factor and an attitude that's been lacking since Rodney Harrison retired.
"With his penalty total in double digits, including two Sunday in San Diego, some might view cornerback Brandon Browner as a liability to the Patriots defense, not an asset," writes Guregian. "So the question becomes: Is he worth the risk? In a word, yes."
Another key player on the defense is Jamie Collins. Collins had one of his best games of the year against San Diego when he was asked to step into an even bigger role and fill in for the injured Dont'a Hightower. The Bleacher Report's James Christensen says that Collins is becoming a versatile weapon for the Patriots because of his ability to thrive in a variety of roles.
"With Hightower's availability for the last three weeks of the regular season uncertain, look for Collins to further expand and refine his role as the leader of the defense," says Christensen. "Rushing the 'A-gap,' covering tight ends and running backs, doling out pre-snap audibles... Collins is ready to make the leap."
Collins' performance against the Chargers was one of the many topics of discussion for Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen on 'Monday Night Patriots' on Comcast SportsNet. Koppen says that Collins is an explosive player and he appears to be getting better week to week.
"This is a guy that's gotten better as the season has gone on," said Koppen. "He's always been a good coverage guy. To take the green dot, to take control of the defense and make sure everyones in the right spot and do what he did [Sunday] night. He's an explosive player, and you're seeing that on the field right now."