Dolphins Watch

December 5, 2009 1:18 AM

Dolphins face must-win against Pats

Moss.bmpThe Miami Dolphins' playoff hopes could be riding on the outcome of Sunday's home game against New England.

The last time the two teams met, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Randy Moss feasted on the Dolphins' young secondary, particulary rookie cornerback Vontae Davis.

Brady completed 25-of-37 passes for 332 yards, and Moss caught six passes for 147 yards, including the game-clinching TD on a 71-yard catch and run with Davis covering him.

Davis had an interception early in the game while covering Moss, but he was otherwise largely the victim of the future Hall-of-Famer's exploits.

So, why don't the Dolphins move fellow rookie -- and 6-foot-3 inch Sean Smith -- over to cover Moss?

Well, it has to do with Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni's philosophy of not flopping corners.

Thus, Davis will always line up on the left side, and Smith the right.

It's the same philosophy the Dolphins have largley had for more than a decade, when Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain were responsible for their particular sides of the field, and would not switch for any game or any opponent.

That sometimes causes problems, as opposing offenses know exactly where your corners are going to be, and who they can target and when.

Pasqualoni was asked about the Dolphins' defensive strategy, and he said that based on specific assignments on defense, it would be too complicated to switch corners on a given play.

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a noted defensive guru, was asked about his policy regarding cornerbacks, he said it depends on what cordinators feel comfortable with.

Somehow, I get the feeling that Belichick would match up his best players against the opposing offense's best, regardless of who's playing on what side.

As we know, defense has been a problem for the Dolphins all season, especially against the pass.

Last week, Miami gave up 24 fourth quarter points, and allowed 246 yards passing to Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in a shocking 31-14 loss.

New England was also victimized to the tune of a 38-17 loss in New Orleans, where Brady had a zero-TD, two-INT perfromance for just the fourth time in his career.

You know the Patriots are an angry bunch after the loss, and will want to take out their frustrations on the inconsistent Dolphins.

In the first meeting between the two teams, New England limited the Wildcat and the Dolphins running game, holding Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown to 81 yards on 22 carries.

The Dolphins did get a boost from rookie Pat White, who was the team's second-leading rusher with 45 yards on six attempts.

But, New England smartly put the game in the hands of Chad Henne and the maligned receiving corps, and Henne completed only 19-of-34 passes for 219 yards.

That will be New England's formula this time out, and the Dolphins must find a way to penetrate the Pats' defense if they are to stay alive in the playoff chase.

Lose this one, and New England will have a three-game lead with just five weeks left in the season, ending the division title chase once and for all -- and probably Miami's playoff hopes in the process.

I see this one playing out simliarly to the first encounter in Massachusetts: The Dolphins will hang tough for awhile, before New England's superior firepower overwhelms them.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21.

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