Foxborough, Mass. - The reminders for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his defensive coaching staff to the potency of the Miami Dolphins defense are everywhere.
The Patriots suffered through their worst offensive game of the season in a 24-10 win over Miami on Oct. 10, gaining a season-low 204 total yards, including only 69 net yards through the air. It was also a career-worst day for quarterback Tom Brady, who completed 7-of-19 passes for 76 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He set career lows in completions and passing yards and tied a career-low in passing attempts in games he has started.
The Patriots didn't allow a sack, but Brady failed to complete a pass during the second half on four attempts as the Patriots scored just seven points.
"We didn't throw the ball very well at all against Miami as a team," Belichick said. "We had trouble with pressure. We didn't have people open. Miami is one of the best teams in the league in pass defense. They are every year. They're up there again this year. We've got to do a lot better if we're going to have any kind of success throwing the ball."
Belichick had just finished watching film Thursday morning of Miami's 17-20 loss Denver last week, so the Dolphins' pass defense was fresh on his mind.
"They never struggle on defense," Belichick said. "Never. Some games, some plays might be better than others, but you look at them game in and game out, year in and year out, they're always at the top of the league defensively and they're always at the top of league in pass defense. They're a hard team to throw against. Like I said, they might give up a few plays here and there from time to time, but over the long haul in terms of consistency, nobody plays the passing game better than Miami does and that includes the pass rush. It's a collective team effort."
Brady had one of his better games of the season in last week's win over Cincinnati, completing 18-of-26 passes (69.2 percent) for 260 yards and two touchdowns for a season-best 127.1 quarterback rating. If Brady is to avoid a repeat of his earlier performance against Miami, it will take a solid performance by running back Corey Dillon and the ground game and a conscience effort to get rid of the ball quickly. Belichick offered up a message for the offense.
"As we talk about the passing game in Miami, it's important for our team to understand that we don't have all day," Belichick said. "Whatever we're going to do in the passing game, we've got to get it done, because you can't stand back there and hold the ball against Jason Taylor and [Jay] Williams and those guys. You just don't have time."
Injury Report: Law Close?
When Ty Law was upgraded to doubtful on the Patriots official injury report this week, it marked the first suggestion from the team that the veteran cornerback is close to returning from a broken bone in his right foot that has kept him out the last six games. Law, who says he is hopeful to return before the end of the regular season, had his cast removed two weeks ago and has "graduated" beyond the stationary bike in regards to his rehabilitation.
"Well, he is better than he was," Belichick said. "He should be. It has been six weeks. So, we are headed in the right direction. What will happen, when he will be able to play, if he will be able to play, that is day-to-day. We won't know that until he is able to do it. But, it is better now than it was last week, which, again, it should be after this amount of time."
Two of the other injured Patriots cornerbacks, Randall Gay (arm) and Asante Samuel (shoulder), are listed as questionable but participated in all of practice Thursday. Rookie safety Dexter Reid (shoulder) was again listed as doubtful, while wide receiver David Givens (ankle); cornerback Tyrone Poole (knee); linebackers Matt Chatham (hamstring) and Roman Phifer (calf); and tight end Daniel Graham (rib) are all listed as questionable. Reid, Givens, Poole, Chatham, Phifer and Graham all missed portions of team practice.
Safety Rodney Harrison (flu) was added to Thursday's injury report, but is listed as probable. Quarterbacks Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are once again listed as probable.
Thursday Roundup: Belichick Press Conference
As the Patriots prepare to play the Dolphins Monday night, Belichick held his first press conference of the week Thursday focusing mainly on the match up against Miami. Here are some highlights:
· He pointed out Miami has opened up its play-calling offensively and the improvement of quarterback A.J. Feeley over the past several weeks. " I think he's played much better as the weeks have gone on. You can see it improving and the chemistry and the confidence between the quarterback and the receivers and tight ends, including [tight end Randy] McMichael in there, is growing. I think that Feeley definitely has improved his performance in the last few weeks. I thought he played very well against Denver and we all know that's a tough place to play and that's a good defense."
·Refuted the idea that Miami's Taylor has had less of an impact since the team traded fellow defensive end Adewale Ogunleye to Chicago, saying much of his impact isn't on the stat sheet. "Taylor has had a pretty productive year. I don't know exactly what it was last year relative to that, but I would venture to say that he probably has more production this year than he did last year. I could be wrong there, but he is pretty productive. There are a lot of plays Taylor is in on."
· He spent a considerable amount of time taking questions on special teams and Cincinnati's successful fake field goal for a touchdown last week.
·A reporter asked how large of a role offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has had on the development of Brady. Weis, who was named the head coach at Notre Dame earlier this week, has been with Brady since his rookie year in 2000. "I think he's played a big role. He talks to him and meets with him everyday, game plans and they work closely even though we've had quarterback coaches here with John [Hufnagel] and Josh [McDaniels] and they're a part of it too. There's no question about that. I think that Charlie has had a significant role in Tom's development and overall strategy and some fundamentals and techniques and just game management."
· He noted the offseason training of kicker Adam Vinatieri, which has resulted in longer kickoffs this season. "I think his kickoffs, as they have every year, they have improved a little bit each year and I think that is partly due to Adam's offseason training program and how hard he works. He is one of our best-conditioned athletes. He is not really a kicker. To me, he is more of a football player."
Belichick conducted his normal 10:45 a.m. press conference today followed by media access in the Patriots locker room. ... Brady, who usually speaks with the media on Wednesdays, will instead speak on Friday. ... Offensive tackle Matt Light and linebackers Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel had large media contingents at their lockers. ... Louisiana State University head coach Nick Saban met with the Dolphins Tuesday regarding their head coaching position. Saban was Belichick's defensive coordinator in Cleveland.