The New England Patriots will go into Miami today as historic 18.5-point favorites, and for good reason. The Dolphins were blown out by the Baltimore Ravens last week from the get go and have multiple players complaining that the team is tanking. New England, meanwhile, looked sharp in its opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and will get linebacker Kyle Van Noy back (not sure about Antonio Brown, but I would obviously add that too).
There is a lot to be confident about if you’re the Patriots going into this game overall, but there also is of course the team’s history when playing in Miami. Let’s go to the coaches film and take a look at what I saw from Miami in Week 1, and what it might mean for today’s game between the two AFC East rivals.
1. Power running from the Patriots
I expect a lot of pulling guard runs from the Patriots today, given the Dolphins’ defense and what Baltimore did to them last Sunday. The Ravens used a fullback a lot on opening day, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to again see big snaps from James Develin today. Baltimore was able to wash Miami’s defensive line down and create big alleys with their guards and fullback:
Miami Dolphins week 1 takeaways:— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
Ravens cut through the Dolphins front 7 (over front) in week 1 running power, almost exclusively with a Fullback. I expect to see power and counter show up on Sunday out of 1 back and 2 backs with Develin pic.twitter.com/7rRikdtD5m
Here’s some similar clips of the Patriots running their power runs with pulling linemen against Pittsburgh last week:
Patriots running counter and power in week 1 pic.twitter.com/e1fAU5b8Ux— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
The Ravens also showed that the Dolphins defense will bite hard on play action if you sell pulling linemen action, a Patriots staple. Here’s the Ravens doing it last Sunday:
The Ravens also outflanked the Dolphins defense with play action by pulling a guard. pic.twitter.com/GlFYAiLy8q— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
And here’s the Patriots running two very similar play action passes with a guard pulling.
Using play action with a guard pulling is a Patriots staple so I expect to see it vs Miami pic.twitter.com/E5De31zY2s— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
2. Agressive Miami Safeties
The Ravens won 59-10 last Sunday partly because of how many big passing plays Lamar Jackson had. The Dolphins’ safeties were flying downhill and Jackson made them pay. Of course, game planning for Lamar Jackson and Tom Brady are two completely different things and I don’t expect such aggressive play from Miami’s safeties against New England. However, I do expect there to be opportunities to get behind the defense, which New England was able to do against Pittsburgh in Week 1.
The Dolphins Safeties were flying downhill aggressively vs BAL and Lamar made them pay with multiple explosive passing plays. I don't expect the same aggressiveness from Miami's safeties against the Pats but I do think there may be some opportunities to get behind the secondary pic.twitter.com/cREz37TGZW— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
Here are some clips of the Patriots getting behind the Steelers’ defense on Sunday night.
Here's the Patriots receivers getting behind the Steelers secondary in week 1 pic.twitter.com/LB9Wukve43— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
3. Soft zone coverage
I also expect the Patriots to attack the flats if the Dolphins choose to play the same, passive cover 3 that they did against Baltimore. At least so far in Week 1, the Dolphins have not re-routed the seams very well and there’s a lot of open space in the flat to attack. Baltimore sliced through the Dolphins’ zones by attacking the seams and flats often — New England, of course, is no stranger to this approach.
The Ravens also cut through the Dolphins zone defense by attacking the flats. At least so far in week 1, Miami's primary pass defense was a passive cover 3 that was exploited in the flat and in the seams pic.twitter.com/gpgCxyYp5D— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 14, 2019
Here’s an example of the Patriots attacking that same seam and flat area that Baltimore did with their famous Hoss Y Juke concept.
Here's the Patriots running hoss y juke to attack that same seam/flat area of the field against cover 3 pic.twitter.com/zWPcdzQpNr— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 15, 2019
4. The Dolphins had no success running the football against Baltimore
The lack of running success against Baltimore was mostly due to the fact that the Dolphins were getting blown out early. However, Miami could not get anything going even in the first quarter against Baltimore’s defense. All in all, the Dolphins finished with 11 carries for 13 yards. Baltimore was able to hold them to such poor running numbers even when they had two high safeties and Miami had the numbers advantage in the box.
Judging from New England’s performance last week against Pittsburgh — shutting down the Steelers’ run game — Miami should have some trouble getting things going on the ground.
On offense, Miami had little success on the ground. They showed versatility running various zone and man run schemes. Their best run by far was 1 back power. However, they finished the day with 11 carries for 13 yards. BAL was able to stuff the run even with 2 high safeties pic.twitter.com/4qP1sTExsF— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 15, 2019
5. Solid talent at wide receiver vs man coverage
Although the Dolphins didn’t really get anything going in the passing game either, they showed some promise in defeating man coverage. I was impressed by DeVante Parker and Preston Williams’ ability to run good, physical routes and make contested catches. New England’s defensive back group thrives in man coverage and is probably the best in the league at it, but Miami offers some skill at receiver that New England will have to take seriously.
DeVante Parker and Preston Williams were impressive in beating the Ravens Cornerbacks in Man Coverage. They ran physical routes + made good contested catches. The Pats were in cover 1 for most of last weeks game and were great in it so this should be a great matchup to watch pic.twitter.com/E8rdSqvYna— HP Football (@HPFootball3) September 15, 2019
As Twitter user MattyNitro noted, the Pats will be in their dark jerseys in what will feel like 100 degree weather. On top of that, there’s no telling what will ever happen when the Patriots go to Miami and obviously, they will be going up against former Patriots coaches Brian Flores, Chad O’Shea and Josh Boyer, among others.
Despite all of that, the Ravens exposed a lot of holes in this Dolphins team. Miami did not show a lot of promise on the ground, both on offense and defense, and got gashed both in the flat and down the field by Baltimore’s passing game. Miami’s bright spot was certainly their receivers ability to beat the Ravens’ defensive backs in man coverage, and with the Patriots playing man almost exclusively against Pittsburgh last week, the defensive backs against Miami’s receivers should be a fun matchup to watch.