Man, I’m beginning to wonder if Coach Belichick and his coaching staff are forgetting to read my column. I mean, he didn’t get my plans to expose the weakness of the Jets’ DBs by using 3WR/1TE or 4WR sets until near the end of the second quarter. I guess someone on his staff must’ve remembered to look here in between the 2-minute warning. Hopefully, with no more Thursday night games, it won’t happen again.
With that in mind, how should the Pats win against the streaking Dolphins, winners of four straight games, Mr. All-Knowing Football Man? If you look at the stats, the trends are there for the reading.
On offense, the Pats need to continue to work on the 3WR/1TE sets from last week to keep the Dolphins nickel and dime DBs on the field. The Fins are 23rd in the NFL for passing yards per game. The Pats also should go deep against the Dolphins as the Fish are 29th in the league in allowing passing plays of 20 yards or more. But since the Fins are in the top 10 in sacks, Cassel needs to get check down or rid of the ball if the deep ball is not there. I do have another plea to have Cassel use the shovel pass up the middle and the WR bubble pass on the sides to tire the D-line and LBs.
With Sammy Morris coming back this week, he might be able to run better on the left side. While I’m not a fan of running at the new Mouth of the South (Porter) and Holliday but prior to Game 3 of the 2008 season getting out of hand early, Morris did have some success on that side of the line and with a relatively healthy line, running the ball is a necessary component to a Pats victory.
On the defensive side of the ball, there will be visions of last week’s Favre check-down mode on the field by the Fish. With Pennington behind center, the Fish are 9th in the league in passing yards. But that doesn’t mean that the Fins won’t try to go long as they are 10th in completions of 20 yards or more. That means in obvious passing situations, the Patriots need to play a Cover 2 scheme with over the top safety help to keep Camarillo and Ginn, Jr in check.
But the real question is how should the Pats defend the high school Wildcat formation? They should do the same thing that they always do for run-heavy teams. They should play a 3-4 alignment. The D-line and LBs must be held responsible for their backfield reads. Staying home and seeing the formation for a second time will definitely limit those explosive runs by Brown and Williams.
Lastly, if the Pats can play a bend-but-don’t-break style, they might be able to hang in the game. The Fins are 24th in the league with a 20.9 scoring average and 26th in the NFL with only 9 TD passes. Keeping people in front of them, limiting the one-on-one exposure in the defensive backfield and wrapping people up will make it a successful night for the Pats and should help the Pats secure the needed win to keep pace in the tight AFC East.
Next team on the docket is the AFC North leader Pittsburgh Steelers, another recently made grudge match. Can the Pats take advantage of a QB who is still trying to get back in his groove? Will they be able to withstand the blitzing onslaught that comes with playing the Black and Gold? Tune in next Friday to find out.
Britt Schramm’s ‘Line Em Up’ appears weekly on Patriots Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.