There are few places that have made the Patriots look less than extraordinary over the past 20 years, but Miami is one of them. Bill Belichick holds just an 8-10 mark as Patriots coach on the road against the Dolphins, and the Patriots have dropped four of their last five in south Florida.
Belichick understands this but wasn’t ready to look at the heat and humidity that obviously impacts games in Miami as a factor.
“It is what it is out there. So whatever it is, it is,” Belichick said when asked if there was any way to simulate the humidity.
How about the recent history in Miami?
“We’ll definitely look at last year’s game. That’s as close as we can get,” he said.
While he wouldn’t necessarily delve into any of the pitfalls that come with a trip down south in December, Belichick was more than willing to look at the Dolphins themselves.
“They’ve done a really good job of winning close games, playing good football situationally and that’s how they’ve won a lot of close games,” Belichick said. “They’re, obviously, very well-coached. They have a lot of explosive players on offense with [Kenny] Stills, [Kenyan] Drake, [Frank] Gore, [DeVante] Parker, [Ryan] Tannehill’s back.
“Then defensively this is a disruptive front. [Xavien] Howard’s having a great year. They turn the ball over a lot, one of the best teams in the league on that. One of the real strengths of the team is special teams. They do an outstanding job on the return game, the rush game, coverage. Good all-around team that gave us a lot of problems down there last year with their scheme, their players and the way they played. I’m sure we’ll get the same thing this time. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a better job with it.”
The press conference featured a lot of praise for the Dolphins. Belichick touched specifically on the dangerous defensive end tandem of Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn as well as the special teams. Those were among the highlights on Wednesday.
Batman – The Patriots are no strangers to Wake, who has consistently been a thorn in the team’s side over the years. Wake has 10.5 sacks and 32 tackles in 18 career game against New England, and Belichick was asked about the defensive end’s production over the years.
“Great motor and great technique. He’s really a good technique rusher,” Belichick explained. “He does a really good job of attacking the blockers, defeating the technique that they’re using, whatever it is – offset, quickset, hand punch. He’s got good counters to all of those and he’s got a really good motor. Athletic, hard to knock off his feet, cut blocks and things like that he just steps right over them.
“He’s quick enough to turn the corner. He’s got a good inside move. He takes the deep-set tackles and powers them back and is disruptive that way. He’s very experienced and can adjust quickly to however the set or the play develops with his rush.”
And Robin – While Patriots fans aren’t as familiar with the Dolphins other explosive edge rusher Quinn, he’s no less dangerous. Quinn spent the bulk of his career with the Rams and has 66 sacks in 107 career games. Although he has just 3.5 sacks in his first season with Miami, Belichick feels he’s as talented as any player in the league at his position.
“They’ve got as good an edge rush as anybody in the league,” Belichick said. “Those guys are very, very explosive and they play hard. They both have great motors. Again, they can hit the edge. They can come inside. They’re good on games. They can turn speed into power. It’s a tough matchup. They’re really good out there.”
Special attention – Finally, Belichick spent some time discussing the Dolphins special teams, which he said was one of Miami’s real strengths. The units are coach by Darren Rizzi, and Belichick said he makes the Dolphins tough to prepare for.
“They’re good at everything; yeah. Obviously, they lost [Jakeem] Grant but they’ve got Drake on kickoffs and they’ve used Stills back there,” he said. “Obviously, he’s an explosive player on punts. They have a good rush scheme – punts and field goals. Even a lot of forces on their punt returns are tough with [Senorise] Perry, [Brandon] Bolden. They do a good job of covering. They play good situational football. Pretty much every week they do a good job.
“They rush a lot. Probably more than any team in the league. It’s almost all rushes. It’s not all rushes, but 70 percent or whatever it is. It’s high.”