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Patriots Notebook: Miami in a vise

Foxborough, Mass. - If any aspect of the New England Patriots 12-1 season appears unsettled or uncertain, consider for a moment the predicament of the 2-11 Miami Dolphins this season.

Miami, which had won at least nine games in seven consecutive seasons and made five playoff appearances during that span, has had a remarkable season, but for the wrong reasons. Running back Ricky Williams abruptly retired before the start of training camp, while starters Junior Seau, Larry Chester, Rob Konrad, Tim Bowens, Zach Thomas and Jay Fiedler have all missed time due to injuries. Head coach Dave Wannstedt was fired after a 1-8 start and replaced by interim head coach Jim Bates. The Dolphins are at the bottom of the AFC in scoring and turnover differential, next to last in total offense and find themselves much closer to the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft than they are to the playoffs.

For many of the veterans on the Miami roster, what's transpired this season is something they're not accustomed to.

[

ulight_taylor.jpg

]()"It is very difficult," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "I've been used to winning 10, 11 games a year and having a shot at the postseason and being competitive late in December. The season has taken on a different tone now. I'm not going to sit here and give you a bunch of excuses why. We just haven't played well enough to win. It's as simple as that."

The Dolphins continue to play hard, but continue to lose. They are 1-3 under Bates, dropping consecutive games to Buffalo and Denver by a combined scored of 62-49 since picking up their second win of the season at San Francisco.

"Well, we have such a high-character group that it has not been hard," Bates said about maintaining intensity despite the mounting losses. "I think that last four weeks we have played as hard as we possibly can play and it's a group that takes a lot of pride [in what they do] and there hasn't been any give-up in our football team."

Miami may not have much left to play for as a team, but one thing that could help salvage the season, according to Taylor, would be to knock of the Patriots under the national spotlight.

"Well, we could beat New England on Monday night," Taylor said. "That will take some of the sour taste out of our mouth. Then we could go out and try to get two more wins after that. There are things to play for. Those young guys are getting an opportunity to play. The team is going to see what they can do and will have to make an evaluation based on that. For us older guys, I just love the game. I love to win. I hate to lose. But, every week there's an opportunity to go out there and compete and play the greatest game on earth. That is a blessing to me and I'd be cheating the game and everyone that came before me and did what they've done to make this league the best sports league in the world if didn't go out there and lay it on the line."

Injury Report
The Patriots released their first official injury report of the week Wednesday, with the most notable addition being Dexter Reid. The rookie safety is listed as doubtful for Monday's game with a shoulder injury, presumably suffered in last week's win over Cincinnati. Wide receiver David Givens, who was a late scratch against the Bengals, was added to the injury report as questionable with an ankle injury. Givens leads the Patriots with a career-high 52 receptions for 780 yards this season.

Cornerback Ty Law (foot) was upgraded to doubtful for the first time since breaking a bone in his foot against Pittsburgh on Oct. 31. Cornerbacks Randall Gay (arm), Tyrone Poole (knee), and Asante Samuel (shoulder); linebackers Matt Chatham (hamstring) and Roman Phifer (calf); and tight end Daniel Graham (rib) are all listed as questionable. Quarterbacks Tom Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are once again listed as probable.

Bailey Signs
According to a published report by Mike Reiss in the MetroWest Daily News, the Patriots have reached an agreement with defensive end Rodney Bailey on a contract extension through the 2006 season. Bailey, 24, was signed as a restricted free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers during the offseason but was placed on injured reserve after rupturing his Achilles tendon during the early portion of training camp. He spent his first three NFL seasons with the Steelers, collecting 9.5 sacks in 48 career games, including one start. Bailey joins a list of young Patriots defensive linemen - Richard Seymour (25), Ty Warren (23), Vince Wilfork (23) and Marquise Hill (22) - all under contract through 2006.

Quick Hits
With their next game on Monday Night, the Patriots operated under an alternate schedule Wednesday. Belichick did not hold a press conference, and Patriots players were not made available to the press. ... The New England media held conference calls with Miami interim head coach Jim Bates and defensive end Jason Taylor. ... Thursday will be a normal Wednesday schedule for the Patriots, with a Belichick press conference in the morning followed by an open locker room with the media. ... The Patriots will then practice on Friday and Saturday before using Sunday as a travel day. ... The combined records of the Patriots last three opponents - Miami, the New York Jets and San Francisco - is 13-26. That cumulative record is heavily slanted by the Jets (9-4), the only opponent remaining with a winning record. ... The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with one of the following scenarios: a win and a loss or tie by San Diego; a tie plus a loss by San Diego and a loss or tie by Indianapolis; or losses by both Indianapolis and San Diego plus a loss or tie by Pittsburgh. The Patriots earned a bye on three occasions (1996, 2001 and 2003) since it was instituted in 1990. ... The Patriots will be making their 31st appearance, and second this season, on Monday Night Football against Miami. They hold an 11-19 all-time record on Monday night, including a 4-1 mark in the last five games.

Foxborough, Mass. - If any aspect of the New England Patriots 12-1 season appears unsettled or uncertain, consider for a moment the predicament of the 2-11 Miami Dolphins this season.

Miami, which had won at least nine games in seven consecutive seasons and made five playoff appearances during that span, has had a remarkable season, but for the wrong reasons. Running back Ricky Williams abruptly retired before the start of training camp, while starters Junior Seau, Larry Chester, Rob Konrad, Tim Bowens, Zach Thomas and Jay Fiedler have all missed time due to injuries. Head coach Dave Wannstedt was fired after a 1-8 start and replaced by interim head coach Jim Bates. The Dolphins are at the bottom of the AFC in scoring and turnover differential, next to last in total offense and find themselves much closer to the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft than they are to the playoffs.

For many of the veterans on the Miami roster, what's transpired this season is something they're not accustomed to.

[

ulight_taylor.jpg

]()"It is very difficult," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "I've been used to winning 10, 11 games a year and having a shot at the postseason and being competitive late in December. The season has taken on a different tone now. I'm not going to sit here and give you a bunch of excuses why. We just haven't played well enough to win. It's as simple as that."

The Dolphins continue to play hard, but continue to lose. They are 1-3 under Bates, dropping consecutive games to Buffalo and Denver by a combined scored of 62-49 since picking up their second win of the season at San Francisco.

"Well, we have such a high-character group that it has not been hard," Bates said about maintaining intensity despite the mounting losses. "I think that last four weeks we have played as hard as we possibly can play and it's a group that takes a lot of pride [in what they do] and there hasn't been any give-up in our football team."

Miami may not have much left to play for as a team, but one thing that could help salvage the season, according to Taylor, would be to knock of the Patriots under the national spotlight.

"Well, we could beat New England on Monday night," Taylor said. "That will take some of the sour taste out of our mouth. Then we could go out and try to get two more wins after that. There are things to play for. Those young guys are getting an opportunity to play. The team is going to see what they can do and will have to make an evaluation based on that. For us older guys, I just love the game. I love to win. I hate to lose. But, every week there's an opportunity to go out there and compete and play the greatest game on earth. That is a blessing to me and I'd be cheating the game and everyone that came before me and did what they've done to make this league the best sports league in the world if didn't go out there and lay it on the line."

Injury Report
The Patriots released their first official injury report of the week Wednesday, with the most notable addition being Dexter Reid. The rookie safety is listed as doubtful for Monday's game with a shoulder injury, presumably suffered in last week's win over Cincinnati. Wide receiver David Givens, who was a late scratch against the Bengals, was added to the injury report as questionable with an ankle injury. Givens leads the Patriots with a career-high 52 receptions for 780 yards this season.

Cornerback Ty Law (foot) was upgraded to doubtful for the first time since breaking a bone in his foot against Pittsburgh on Oct. 31. Cornerbacks Randall Gay (arm), Tyrone Poole (knee), and Asante Samuel (shoulder); linebackers Matt Chatham (hamstring) and Roman Phifer (calf); and tight end Daniel Graham (rib) are all listed as questionable. Quarterbacks Tom Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are once again listed as probable.

Bailey Signs
According to a published report by Mike Reiss in the MetroWest Daily News, the Patriots have reached an agreement with defensive end Rodney Bailey on a contract extension through the 2006 season. Bailey, 24, was signed as a restricted free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers during the offseason but was placed on injured reserve after rupturing his Achilles tendon during the early portion of training camp. He spent his first three NFL seasons with the Steelers, collecting 9.5 sacks in 48 career games, including one start. Bailey joins a list of young Patriots defensive linemen - Richard Seymour (25), Ty Warren (23), Vince Wilfork (23) and Marquise Hill (22) - all under contract through 2006.

Quick Hits
With their next game on Monday Night, the Patriots operated under an alternate schedule Wednesday. Belichick did not hold a press conference, and Patriots players were not made available to the press. ... The New England media held conference calls with Miami interim head coach Jim Bates and defensive end Jason Taylor. ... Thursday will be a normal Wednesday schedule for the Patriots, with a Belichick press conference in the morning followed by an open locker room with the media. ... The Patriots will then practice on Friday and Saturday before using Sunday as a travel day. ... The combined records of the Patriots last three opponents - Miami, the New York Jets and San Francisco - is 13-26. That cumulative record is heavily slanted by the Jets (9-4), the only opponent remaining with a winning record. ... The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with one of the following scenarios: a win and a loss or tie by San Diego; a tie plus a loss by San Diego and a loss or tie by Indianapolis; or losses by both Indianapolis and San Diego plus a loss or tie by Pittsburgh. The Patriots earned a bye on three occasions (1996, 2001 and 2003) since it was instituted in 1990. ... The Patriots will be making their 31st appearance, and second this season, on Monday Night Football against Miami. They hold an 11-19 all-time record on Monday night, including a 4-1 mark in the last five games.

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