With the playoffs no longer a possibility, the Miami Dolphins have their sights set on closing out the regular season with a three-game winning streak and in the process finishing with a non-losing record for the first time since 2008.
Standing in Miami’s way are the New England Patriots, who at 11-4 are vying for a first-round bye with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. Led by future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots have won the last four meetings between the two AFC East rivals and five of the last six.
When the two teams take the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., late tomorrow afternoon there will be 17 starters for the Dolphins that will remember last year’s 27-24 loss in front of the same fans. What they will remember most is having a 17-0 lead at the half and then watching New England score 27 consecutive points.
So finding motivation tomorrow will not be a problem for the Dolphins for a variety of reasons, chief among them being that chance to close out with a .500 record. The sound of an 8-8 record has a ring to it that 7-9 simply does not have.
“It’s a big difference,” Bush said. “I think obviously 8-8 is better than 7-9, but I think, for us right now at this point in the season, it’s about finishing strong. It’s about winning that last game and obviously carrying that over hopefully into the next year.”
Five Things To Watch:
1. Will Miami’s running game be able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and the second level against an underrated New England run defense – In the first meeting at Sun Life Stadium on December 2nd, the Patriots made life tough for Dolphins running back
2. How much pressure can the Dolphins get on Brady in a hostile environment – Brady was sacked four times in the first game and hit even more on his way to a less than stellar day throwing the ball. Pro Bowl defensive end
3. What will Miami center
4. Can whichever Dolphins cornerback tasked with covering New England’s dangerous wide receiver Wes Welker shut him down – Welker caught a game-high 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in his team’s 23-16 win in Week 13 and has 110 receptions for 1,260 yards and five touchdowns on the season. That earned him yet another trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and Miami’s secondary is very banged up, with both starting cornerbacks and both starting safeties –
5. Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman versus Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – Even though Sherman’s direct counterpart on New England’s coaching staff is defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, it’s Belichick who calls most of the shots on that side of the ball. The way Sherman utilized Bush and Tannehill in last week’s 24-10 win over Buffalo likely gave Belichick some pause during his game week preparation. Tannehill did serious damage with his legs for the second week in a row in the read option and Bush caught two touchdown passes, and newcomer