It's taken until mid-December for the 2020 Patriots to have their first rematch of the season, and since their season-opening win against Miami, New England has had trouble consistently reproducing the offensive success they showed promise of in that first outing.
Josh McDaniels sprung the post-Brady, Cam Newton offense on Brian Flores and it kept the Dolphins off-balance all game long. Newton rushed for two touchdowns and 75 yards while completing 11-of-15 passes for 155 yards.
This time McDaniels won't have the element of surprise.
"This is the second game in a division series," said McDaniels. "I always kind of look at this game in a different light. If you had any success in the first one, you need to look hard at what you did, but you also need to be careful because you know the other team is looking just as hard at it."
Where could the Patriots tack this time to keep the Dolphins off track? It's hard to ask them to get away from Damien Harris and the run game, it's been their biggest and often only asset at times this season. But with Harris' status uncertain after sustaining an injury against the Rams, the Patriots could be forced to throw the ball, certainly more than the 15 times they did in the opener.
Bill Belichick admitted earlier in the day that the Patriots passing offense hasn't been as efficient as it needs to be, but praised the work of the three main receivers.
"Damiere's had a solid year for us right from the beginning," said Belichick. "N'Keal's started to come on here in the last few weeks. Jakobi's had a pretty productive year, as well – primarily inside, but he's also played outside in some of our two-receiver sets and has been productive there and has shown the ability to block. He's been involved in some inside blocking plays and crack plays that have helped us in the running game, which our running game has been more productive than it has been in the past. I think our receivers have a role in that."
"They work their butts off," said McDaniels of the trio of receivers. "They're doing what they can do each week to prepare and play their best. I couldn't ask any more of those guys with their attitude and effort and approach."
The Patriots will need the passing game to contribute as they can be sure Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer will come to play with an attacking mentality to shut down New England's biggest offensive strength -- the run -- while making Newton's coverage reads as muddy as possible.
"They're gonna be ready to go, they're going to have things that we haven't practiced or prepared for, that's just part of competing against this group," said McDaniels. "They do such a great job putting their guys to have an opportunity to make plays. This week's gonna be about preparation.
"It's a big challenge, looking forward to getting started with our guys tomorrow."
|Stat||Patriots (6-7)||Dolphins (8-5)|
|Offensive Points||21.3 (t-26th)||25.2 (15th)|
|Offensive Third Down||41.8 (17th)||39.1 (25th)|
|Offensive Red Zone||27th||15th|
|Offensive Passing DVOA||28th||10th|
|Offensive Rushing DVOA||9th||25th|
|Turnover Ratio||+1 (t-15th)||+10 (3rd)|
|Defensive Points||21.5 (7th)||18.8 (2nd)|
|Defensive Third Down||40.1 (13th)||33.1 (1st)|
|Defensive Red Zone||20th||10th|
|Defensive Passing DVOA||16th||5th|
|Defensive Rushing DVOA||28th||23rd|
|Special Teams DVOA||1st||3rd|