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Patriots.com News Blitz 12/20/04

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe points out that despite having wrapped up the AFC East and a spot on the playoffs, tonight's game in Miami is of paramount importance if the Patriots want to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers for home-field advantage.

Also in the Globe,Bob Ryan takes a Bill Belichick-like approach to tonight's game, suggesting the Dolphins have some positive traits that belie their 2-11 record.

Jim McBride of the Globe provides a full scouting report for tonight's game, including keys to victory for both teams, who holds which advantages, and who to watch.

Kevin Mannix of The Boston Herald contends tonight's game represents somewhat of a South Beach vacation for the defending champs, as they usually face a much more formidable opponent when heading to Miami in December.

Mannix also features Corey Dillon, who figures to have a big role to play tonight. Last time the Pats and 'Fins met, the Miami defense held the passing game in check, limiting Tom Brady to a career-low 76 yards. With that in mind, look for the Pats to keep it on the ground and feed the workhorse Dillon.

George Kimball of the Herald goes behind enemy lines and spotlights Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who has often posed match-up problems for Brady's backside protector, left tackle Matt Light. Taylor always brings his "A" game, which is a rare combination of speed, power, and knowledge.

Kimball also looks at Miami interim coach Jim Bates, a former Belichick assistant in Cleveland, who Kimball asserts has done a better job than the team's record indicates since taking over for Dave Wannstedt.

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call looks ahead to tonight's MNF spotlight, and writes the Dolphins are but playing for pride. As Parente reports, the Dolphins are well aware that a win over the defending champions would help the team feel a good deal better about their performance.

In USA Today, Tom Pedulla has a nice take on what is becoming more and more of a national story: the versatility of two-way player Troy Brown. Pedulla separates Brown from other players who pop up on the other side of the ball, including Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel of the Pats, and Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos. The difference, Pedulla contends, is that Brown is a full-time player on both sides of the ball and knows the entire playbook, whereas the others only come in for certain situations, like Seymour does on short-yardage plays.

In The Providence Journal, Tom Curran also accepts the idea that Miami will put up a fight tonight, especially on the defensive side of the ball. However, as Curran points out, the Miami offense is not one that stacks up well with the Patriots talented defense.

Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant reviews what led to the Dolphins dismal season, noting their downfall began in the summer, when star running back Ricky Williams decided to walk away from the team that centered around him to pursue other interests.

Greenberg also provides a full preview of tonight's game.

In his notebook, Dan Pires of The Standard Times takes an interesting look at the team's infrastructure, and points out the Patriots amazing ability to draft the right players for their system is just a part of their winning formula. As Pires highlights, 15 out of 53 players on the active roster went undrafted, including Adam Vinatieri and Randall Gay, showing the Patriots officials also have an unusual knack for finding diamonds in the rough. Pires also goes through the team news, and makes a prediction for tonight's game.

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