After giving their players a long weekend off to enjoy their bye week, Bill Belichickand his staff now have an extra day to prepare for this week's opponent – the Miami Dolphins.
Normally, the team takes Tuesday s off and begins its workweek on Wednesday. But with a full weekend of R&R behind them, New England will have five full days of work to devote to Miami. And the Pats will gladly take it, so as to avoid being caught off-guard by anything new the Dolphins might unveil, as they did the last time the Fins visited Foxborough.
Miami knocked off AFC East division rival New York yesterday in the Meadowlands, and in so doing, scored 30 or more points for the fourth straight week. Though the Dolphins used a combination of offense, defense, and special teams to score all those points, New England remembers one aspect in particular that Miami employed against them a year ago – the Wildcat offense.
"We're certainly well aware of all the skill players they have," the Pats head coach told reporters via conference call midday Monday.
"We'll try to pull things together after the Jet game and add that to all the other information we had earlier … and get back to work on these guys, get back on the field tomorrow, try to get a little extra jump on them, which I'm sure we'll be able to use. Hopefully we can be a little more competitive this time around."
When the Dolphins came to Gillette last September, they unleashed their Wildcat for the first time and routed the Patriots 38-13. In preparing for the ensuing contest last season, New England had studied how often Miami used that formation in their offense and dedicated a similar percentage of their practice time to defending it.
According to Belichick, his team faces that dilemma each week with different opponents and the various aspects of their schemes.
"That's always a tough decision," Belichick explained, "It varies from game to game. It's not always used in the same percentages. The better it's going, the more you're going to see it [in games]. Then there are other times when they make you spend time defending it and don't use it that much. The most important thing is that we're sound on it and prepared for it. If we get it, we at least know how to play the different things that come out of it.
"It's certainly a challenging aspect to the whole preparation process. We don't want to commit so much time to it that we don't do a good job on the other things they do as well. Hopefully, we'll be able to use the extra time this week to get those bases covered."
In the wake of Miami's success with the Wildcat last season, many other NFL teams tried to copy the Dolphins. But defensive coordinator Dean Peeswarned of trying to read too much into what other teams do with that formation.
"I think what you do is, when you're playing a team, you really kind of focus on just that team," Pees said, also via conference call. "Now, you also look at teams that they've played and the success or lack of success they've had playing certain fronts or coverages or techniques. Everybody always looks at what you can try to do to stop that team. But watching somebody else's Wildcat – or any other formation for that matter – can be totally different with two different teams."
The Dolphins don't seem to be having quite the success this season that they did a year ago with their Wildcat, as evidenced most recently by their paltry offensive output against the Jets yesterday (nine points, 104 total net yards).
Pees said the Pats will certainly examine what New York did to counter Miami's offense, but will tailor the New England game plan based on the personnel the Pats have and how the coaching staff feels their players can best attack the Dolphins, regardless of how they line up on offense.