Even with the emergence of rookie wide receiver Chris Chambers of late, New England would like to make Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler have to throw the ball Saturday.
While the Dolphins have been open up their offense a little more because of Chambers ability to stretch the field, their game is a short, control-oriented offense. In the first meeting of the season, running back Lamar Smith ran 29 times for 144 yards, his season best and the most the Patriots have allowed an individual rusher in 2001.
New England ran into problems because they could not make Fiedler throw the ball. A solid running quarterback, he ran seven times for 37 yards, while only having to throw 21 times. Fiedler completed just 11 passes for 87
yards, but it didn't matter because the Patriots could not stop the run.
"Lamar Smith had a real good game against us last time," linebacker Ted Johnson said. "They physically kicked our [butts] and we can't let that happen again. Our defensive line is playing well and our inebackers are flowing nicely. Hopefully we can stop the running game and make them more one-dimensional."
Forcing Miami to rely on Fiedler would go a long way in helping the Patriots. In four losses this season he has two touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. By contrast, he has 14 touchdowns and eight picks in the nine wins. Fiedler has also been sacked 13 times in the four losses, as opposed to going down six times the rest of the way.
"We couldn't get to him and make him throw," Belichick said of the first meeting. "As long as they are successful running the ball, they showed in the first game they will just keep running it. That was Smith's best game of
the year, and they averaged almost 5 yards a carry. If we don't do a better job on that, I don't think the passing game will make much of a difference."
New England could get a bit of a lift with defensive end Willie McGinest back in the lineup. McGinest missed the last three games and also was not on the field for the 30-10 Week Four loss in Miami. Belichick
said everybody practiced and that McGinest is expected to play.
Saturday marks the 237th and final regular season game that will ever be played in Foxboro Stadium. In 30 years at the facility, New England has compiled a 132-104 record... Linebacker Larry Izzo leads the NFL with
21 tackles on special teams. He is two ahead of both Denver's Keith Burns and Seattle's Isaiah Kacyvenski... The Patriots have 26 take-aways this season and are tied for third in the conference with 19
interceptions. Of their last 17 turnovers, 15 have been interceptions... Just a reminder, Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.