As is the case every week, Bill Belichick extended high praise to the Patriots next opponent. As Michael Vega writes in The Boston Globe, the team receiving Beli-praise this week is the 2-11 Miami Dolphins. Belichick was quick to point out yesterday that the Dolphins boast the NFL's eighth-ranked defense, and the second-best pass defense. It should be noted that the last time these two teams met, in October, Tom Brady was held to a career low 76 passing yards.
As Vega points out in his notebook, there was one miscue during the last meeting with the Dolphins. Stud kicker Adam Vinatieri pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right in the Patriots 24-10 win, marking his only miss of the season.
Michael Felger of The Boston Herald reports from the Patriots locker room, where the desire for defensive improvement is palpable. Felger points out that the veteran presence in the locker room keeps the Patriots grounded, as they know they must improve their defensive performance before they get to the playoffs.
In his notebook, Felger highlights the importance of tight end Daniel Graham in the running game. Graham remains questionable for Monday's game with a rib injury.
Michael O'Connor of the Herald spotlights special teams star Larry Izzo, who made the Pro Bowl during his time as a Miami Dolphin.
O'Connor also features Graham's potential replacement, Christian Fauria, who filled in very well last week, catching a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Gordon Forbes of USA Today has a story on Charlie Weis, and his newest challenge: juggling two of the highest profile jobs in football.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal looks back at the Cincinnati game, in which the Patriots were duped by a fake field goal, and asserts the team will be on high alert the rest of the way.
In his notebook, Curran reviews kind words from Dolphin Jason Taylor regarding the job Brady has done in New England. Taylor has watched Brady mature through their two annual meetings. In Brady's second career start, back in 2001, he was knocked around by the Miami defense, and Taylor scooped up a Brady fumble, returning it for a score. Since then, Brady is 5-2 against Taylor's squad.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant picks up one of the year's best stories, contending that Troy Brown may be seeing more and more time at defensive back as we go down the stretch. It is safe to say that the Brown experiment has been a great success, and he has developed into one of the more reliable defenders in the secondary.
Mike Lowe of The Portland Press Herald reviews the off-field developments that have contributed greatly to the downfall of the once-dangerous Miami franchise.
Ian Clark of The Union Leader provides a very interesting look at the Patriots forgotten players. As Clark points out, life on the practice squad is difficult. While you are but a half step from the big time, should you fall the other way, you are out of a job.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call discusses the job Jim Bates has done as Miami's interim coach since replacing Dave Wannstedt. Bates, a Belichick assistant in Cleveland, has done a decent job with the 'Fins, though his changes have not translated into W's. He will certainly provide a different look than the one Miami gave the Pats in October.
In his notebook, Parente updates Ty Law's progress, noting that though it is unlikely Law will play Monday night, we can expect to see him soon.