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Five Final Thoughts on Patriots-Dolphins

10.04.10 at 6:01 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.  ‘€” With kickoff looming, here are five final thoughts on Patriots-Dolphins:

1. If you haven’t done so already, check out this audio clip from “NFL Sunday” with Troy Brown and Christian Fauria talking about just how hard it is to win in Miami. Hard to believe teams as mentally tough as the 2003 and 2004 Patriots were so flummoxed with dealing with the heat in Miami that they put garbage bags over the air conditioning units in the locker room to try and avoid getting too cool, and also considered not even heading into the locker room at halftime.

2. For me, this game boils down to who can stop a specific set of opposing pass-catchers. If the Dolphins are able to find a way to slow down Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (and they haven’t been able to stop opposing tight ends since the start of the 2009 season) Miami is going to win this game. If the Patriots can slow down Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess, New England is going to win. For more on those numbers, click here.
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Ty Law: Dream of return to Patriots ‘fading’

10.04.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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According to ESPN.com, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, during a visit on ESPN’s Chalk Talk, said that a return to the Patriots represents “a dream I’ve had for a long time,” but the 36-year-old said that hopes for a return are “fading.”

‘€œAt the end of the day, you can’t lose there. You’re going back home, a dream I’ve had for a long time,’€ Law is quoted as saying. ‘€œBut that’s fading. I’ve been gone for so long. I was [like] ‘OK, that’s not going to happen.’€™’€

Law said that he believes he could help a team for 15-20 snaps a game, and that he feels he could join a club mid-season and still be an effective contributor. Even so, he said that he is not actively looking to hook up with a team, suggesting that he is at peace with the idea that his career could be over.

‘€œThat door is closing and I’m finally at peace with football,’€ he said. ‘€œI did everything I could possibly do in football. If I play it would be solely to win a championship and help young guys.’€

Law, drafted in the first round in 1995 by the Patriots, won three Super Bowls with New England. He spent 10 years with the Pats, picking off 35 passes, second most in franchise history. Since leaving the Patriots after the 2004 season, he has gone to the Jets, Chiefs, back to the Jets and the Broncos. He played in seven games, picking off one pass, for Denver last year.

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Price’s 3 Keys: Patriots @ Dolphins

10.04.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Chris Price gives his three keys to the game Monday night when the Patriots will take on the Dolphins in Miami. Be sure to visit the Patriots team page during the game for all the latest updates from Miami.

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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Dolphins to exploit ‘frightening’ secondary

10.04.10 at 2:29 pm ET
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CBS Sports analyst Boomer Esiason joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning, and though Miami’s offense typically features the running game, Esiason expects the Dolphins to attack through the air in tonight’s contest.

“You go after the secondary and you go after the secondary for two reasons,” Esiason said. “I think that the secondary is porous, number one, because they’re young. That’s a young bunch of guys back there. This is not Rodney Harrison, this is not Lawyer Milloy, this is not Ty Law. This is not those great, seasoned players that Bill Belichick built his defense on for so many years there in the 2000s, so I think you have to exploit that.

“Number two,” continued Esiason, “since there is no pass rush, and they don’t play a lot of man coverage, those zones start expanding down the field. When you have guys like Brandon Marshall that can get down the field and can, you hear it all the time, stretch the defense, what people are talking about is not just throwing the ball deep down the field, but stretching the zones underneath. There are wide open players.

“Watching the films from last week and watching the Buffalo and New England game, I think it was frightening. I’ve never seen a New England defense, since Bill Belichick has been there … that was so porous against the pass. I see a team that is going to be exploited each and every week by their opponents because of what the opponents did the week before. It’s a copy cat league.”

Following is a full transcript, including Esiason’s thoughts on Randy Moss contract situation, how the Pats can stop Brandon Marshall, Kevin Kolb‘s performance and more. To listen to the full interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Does the Jets’ big win vs. Buffalo yesterday, compared to the Patriots’ close game with them, suggest anything about where these two teams are, and how tonight might go?

I think it really indicates just how weak the New England defense has been over the last two and a half games. You watch the Jets defense yesterday completely dismantle the Buffalo offense, and that’s exactly the way I think the Jets wanted to get this season going is ground and pound as Rex Ryan likes to say, and then it’s also get turnovers on defense. and then be creative on offense, and use Brad Smith as not only the wildcat running back but also as the wildcat quarterback, he threw a touchdown pass.

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Nuggetpalooza’s Gameday Preview: Pats at Dolphins

10.04.10 at 9:02 am ET
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Oughta be a good one tonight in south Florida:

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* – New England has been outscored in the second half of their last 6 road games (by a total of 52 points). The Pats have outscored their foes in the second half in just 2 of their last 11 games overall.

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* – The Patriots appear to be using their tight ends much more efficiently in 2010. Their TE’s have a 81.8% reception percentage (receptions divided by targets), the highest percentage in the NFL (min. 6+ targets). This is much better than their 70.5% mark last season (7th).

Here’s the kicker, though: Last season, NE tight ends averaged 2.70 yards after the catch, the lowest in the league. This season, their average YAC is 7.56, the 4th HIGHEST in the league.

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* – Last weekend, Miami completed 12 passes of more than 10 “air” yards (caught 11+ yards beyond the line of scrimmage), their most in a game since at least the 2000 season. They had 5 such completions total over the season’s first two games.

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* – Since the start of the 2009 season, New England has allowed 4.67 yards per rushing attempt at home (27th) and just 4.20 per carry on the road.

The Patriots allowed a 5.6 yard average to the Bills last week, the highest in 14 games and the highest by Buffalo versus New England since they put up a 5.8 on 10/13/95 (the Thurman Thomas days).

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* – New England has scored touchdowns on 36% of their drives this season, tops in the league:

35.7% – New England Patriots
30.6% – Philadelphia Eagles
29.4% – Indianapolis Colts

They were 5th last season (26.4%).

Miami, at 12.5%, has the 6th lowest percentage so far.

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* – Over the last two games, the Patriots have allowed points on 52.6% of opponent possessions, the 2nd worst percentage in the league (Buffalo, 54.5%).

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* – The Patriots rushed for 200 yards last Sunday for the first time since week 15 of the 2008 season when they amassed 277 rushing yards at Oakland. It was just their 5th 200-yard rushing game at Foxboro since 1993.

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* – The Dolphins allowed 3 touchdown passes last week for the 3rd time in their last 6 games dating back to last season. Prior to that stretch, they allowed 3+ TD passes just twice in their previous 27 games.

An FYI: New England has allowed 3+ TD passes ON THE ROAD just once in their last 38 road tilts dating back to mid-2005.

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* – New England (16 penalties) and San Diego (20 penalties) are the only teams that have yet to have a penalty against them decline by their opponent. The Patriots also have not declined a penalty against their opponent (14 penalties).

Meanwhile, opponents have accepted just 11 of 16 penalties against Miami so far (69%), the lowest percentage in the league.

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* – The Pats have had 7 different drives that have lasted 10 or more plays this season (6th), and they have 5 touchdowns and are averaging 5.4 points on those drives (5th). Miami is averaging just 3.4 on those drives (14th).

Of course, New England is ALLOWING 5.29 points on opponents’ 10+ play drives (29th). They’ve allowed 7 such drives as well (2nd most).

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* – The Patriots are allowing 4.41 rushing yards per carry this season, which ranks 20th. But if we look only at what I’ll call “trench rushing” (taking out all long runs of 10+ yards), they’re giving up 3.14 per carry, the 2nd highest such average in the league. Only Indianapolis (3.28) has been worse.

Flip side: On offense, Miami is averaging 3.82 yards per rush (29th), but their “trench rushing” average (2.77) ranks 7th best so far.

One other thing: If it keeps up, Miami’s 3.82 rushing average would be their lowest since the 2004 season.

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* – The Dolphins are one of only two teams (SF is the other) without a touchdown play of 20+ yards yet this season. New England has 3 such touchdowns, and Philadelphia leads the league with 4.

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* – The Patriots are the only team in the league to have started as many as 3 drives on their opponent’s side of the 50 but has not scored on any of them. Of course, New England is averaging 3.60 points on drives started on THEIR side of the 50, the highest average in the league.

Miami is the only NFL team that has yet to start any drives on their opponent’s side of the 50 yard line.

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* – Even after limiting Buffalo to 5-12 (42%) passing when New England blitzed last week, opponents have completed 76% of their tries against Pats’ blitzes this year, the highest percentage in the league. Miami’s opponents have completed 67% against blitzes, ranked a not-much-better 28th.

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* – “Uncatchable” passes thrown by Tom Brady by week: 6, 13, 4. Can you guess which one came in a Patriots loss? And here’s Miami’s weekly uncatchable balls totals: 10 (win), 5 (win), 17 (loss).

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* – Last week against Buffalo, only 31.7% of New England’s pass yards came as “yards after the catch” (YAC). It was their lowest YAC percentage in 36 games. They had been over 60% in each of their last 3 games dating back to last season.

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* – Beware the Dolphins running left. They’re averaging 6.05 yards per carry when they run left, the 2nd highest mark in the league. Compare that to their 2.77 average up the middle (30th) and 3.52 when going right (20th).

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* – Opponents are just 3 for 13 passing against the Dolphins when inside the Miami 30 yard line this season (23%), the lowest percentage in the league:

23.1% – Miami Dolphins
37.5% – Baltimore Ravens
39.1% – Cincinnati Bengals

New England is hitting on 67% of those passes this year, including 7-8 over the last two games.

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* – Once New England’s opponents have driven inside the 30 yard line this season, the Patriots have allowed an average of 5.67 points per possession, the highest average in the NFL. They’ve allowed scores on 11 of 12 such drives.

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* – The Patriots gained 4 or more yards on 20 of 30 first down plays last week against Buffalo (67%), the 2nd best mark in the league last week. They ALLOWED 4+ yards on 17 of 26 (65%), the 3rd worst percentage.

Offensively, they still lead the NFL at 60.5% after three weeks.

Also, the Patriots (6.33, 25th) and Dolphins (6.24, 24th) are have been almost even in average yards allowed on first downs this season. Both teams allowed averages of 8+ last weekend.

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* – When the Patriots have run the ball on 3rd down and 7 or fewer to go (or 4th down), they’ve moved the chains 6 times in 6 tries. Last season, they were successful just 57% of the time on those rushes (34-60), ranked 17th in the league.

Miami led the NFL at converting those rushes into first downs last season as they were successful 71% of the time.

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* – Buffalo punted just one time last Sunday against the Patriots, the first time in 55 games that New England hasn’t forced 2+ punts. Here are the longest current streaks of 2+ punts forced:

159 – Dallas Cowboys (9/24/2000)
91 – Philadelphia Eagles
84 – Baltimore Ravens

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* – Miami has gone three and out on just 15.6% of their possessions this season (7th) while the Patriots are forcing their opponents into three and outs just 13.3% of the time (30th), including ZERO last Sunday against Buffalo. Quite a turnaround from last year by the Pats defense: They forced three and outs over 24% of the time in 2009, 7th best in the NFL.

Actually, the Bills have not gone three and out in either of the last two weeks… against New England and Miami.

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* – New England leads the NFL in third down conversions at 58%. That includes 9 for 21 (43%) on 3rd and 6+ (best mark in the league) and 12 for 15 (80%) on 3rd and 5 or fewer (also the best in the league).

Miami has also been good on 3rd and 5 or fewer (65%, 3rd), but not so much on 3rd and 6+ (29%, 19th).

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* – The Dolphins have only 5 pass plays of 20+ yards in 2010, tied with Tennessee and Buffalo for the fewest in the league. Only 25% of Miami’s passing yards have come on such plays, the 2nd lowest percentage in the NFL (Atlanta, 21%). Contrast that to Philadelphia, where 51% of their pass yards have come on 20+ yard completions.

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* – Miami has the worst average starting field position (24.5 yard line) in the NFL so far in 2010:

24.5 – Miami Dolphins
24.8 – San Francisco 49ers
24.9 – Baltimore Ravens

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“Around The NFL” – Nuggetpalooza Style!

10.03.10 at 8:56 am ET
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How about a whole slew of statistical observations from around the league to get you ready for the fourth NFL Sunday of football?

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* – Minnesota Vikings‘ opponents have scored on just 1 out of 6 long drives (lasting 10+ plays) this season. I can’t imagine that is sustainable.

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* – Carolina was “successful” on first down (gained 4+ yards) just 5 of 27 times last Sunday against Cincinnati (18%), the lowest in the league. For the season, they’re down to just 32%, also worst in the NFL.

What does that lead to? Lots of “Third and Long” situations. The Panthers went 0-9 on 3rd down and 6+ to go last Sunday.

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* – Chicago is now leading the NFL in average starting field position (the 37.7 yard line) and in average opponent starting field position (the 22.8 yard line). So obviously, they also lead the league in net starting field position (+14.9). No other team is above +8.1.

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* – After forcing Pittsburgh into 4 three and outs in week one, the Falcons defense is the only one in the league with just 1 forced three and out over the past two weeks.

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* – The Washington Redskins‘ offense has converted 3rd downs just 18% of the time this season (6-33). The lowest ever (at least since 1991) in a season is 24% by the 2005 San Francisco 49ers:

24.0% – San Francisco 49ers, 2005
24.0% – Dallas Cowboys, 2002
25.0% – Buffalo Bills, 2007

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* – San Diego has converted 6 of 14 times when faced with 3rd and 10+, a 42% conversion rate. If (and it’s a big if) they were to keep it up, it would be the highest rate since at least 2004 (the ’06 Colts were 40%).

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* – The Chicago Bears have found themselves in 3rd and 1 on 6 different occasions in 2010 and have converted the first down just twice (33%). The 2005 Bears have the lowest 3rd and 1 conversion percentage for a full season since 2004, making it just 7 of 19 times (36%). Only 7 teams sine 2004 were under 50% on 3rd and 1.

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* – 81% of Baltimore’s kickoffs have reached the end zone this season, the highest percentage in the league. That’s quite a turnaround from 2009, when only 26% of their kicks made it (27th).

Only 14% of San Diego’s kickoffs have reached the end zone (last in the league), much like their 21% mark last season (28th).

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* – The Tennessee Titans, led by Chris Johnson, have lost 32 yards on 16 stuffed rushing plays already, the most stuffs in the league.

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* – Three teams (Jets, Colts, Eagles) have yet to throw and interception yet this season. Three teams (Ravens, Bills, Texans) have yet to intercept a pass.

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* – The Green Bay Packers have sacked the quarterback on 14.1% of opponent pass plays this season (13 sacks), more than double their sack rate of last season (6.4%). No other team is sacking the QB at a rate of even 10% so far.

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* – Denver and San Diego each have 18 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season. No other NFL team has more than 13 such completions.

However, 51% of the Eagles’ passing yards have come on plays of 20+ yards, the highest percentage in the league. This despite just 11 such pass plays. The Eagles led the league last year as well at 50.6%.

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* – The Atlanta Falcons lead the NFL in first downs per game (25.3), rushing first downs (9.7), and net first downs (+10.3) this season. Their defense is allowing only 15.0 first downs per game (4th).

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* – After returning two kickoffs for touchdowns last Sunday, it’s not surprising that Seattle leads the league in kickoff return average (46.3). 57% of their returns have gone for 30+ yards (also 1st).

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* – The Eagles sacked Jaguars quarterback David Garrard 6 times last Sunday for a total of 51 yards. They had 3 or  fewer sacks in each of their previous 10 games. For Jacksonville, it was just the 2nd time since 2000 that they’ve lost 50+ yards via sack.

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* – Jacksonville was flagged 4 times for 67 yards last week against Philadelphia, an average of 16.8 yards per penalty, the 2nd highest average per penalty in Jaguars history (min. 4 penalties).

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* – The Arizona Cardinals are averaging 7.30 yards per rush in the 1st half this season (1st) and just 3.76 in the 2nd half (17th). Also, they’re ALLOWING 6.02 in the 1st half (4th worst) and 2.95 in the 2nd half (8th best).

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* – The Kansas City Chiefs have forced 8 punts in each of their three games this season, tying the longest streak of games with 8+ punts forced since at least 1990, last done by Arizona’s defense in 1995.

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* – San Diego completed 16 passes of 11+ “air yards” (caught at least 11 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) last week (16 for 30). That was the most in a single game since New Orleans completed 16 such passes in Week 10 of the 2008 season. It was the most such completions by San Diego since at least 2000.

It was also the most such completions ALLOWED by Seattle since at least 2000, although they’ve now allowed 857 such completions in that span, the most in the NFL.

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* – St. Louis Rams‘ opponents have attempted 3 rushes this season on 3rd down and 2 yards to go or fewer and have not converted a first down on any of them. Why is that significant? Well, over the last two seasons, their opponents have converted those first downs on 42 of 53 rushing tries (79%).

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* – The Vikings have won the second half points battle in each of their last 13 home games.

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* – The Giants didn’t punt last weekend against Tennessee. It the first time that they G-Men haven’t punted in a game since 1991 (301 straight games). However, the Giants lost BOTH of those games.

It was the 14th time since 1990 that a team has lost a game despite never punting. It’s happened in each of the last two weekends, though, as Jacksonville didn’t punt in Week 2 and lost.

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* – Tennessee has allowed an average of just 2.67 points on opponent red zone drives this season, allowing 2 touchdowns and 6 field goals on 12 opportunities. Compare that to New England’s defense, who has allowed an average of 5.67 points (29th) on such drives (6 TD and 3 FG on 9 red zone drives).

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* – The Denver Broncos have run an NFL-high 42 plays in the red zone already in 2010. However, they’re averaging just 3.38 points per red zone opportunity, ranked 26th in the league.

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* – Jacksonville and Chicago are the only teams without a rushing touchdown yet this season. Dallas and Cleveland are the only ones that haven’t ALLOWED one yet.

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Enjoy the games and be sure to check back tomorrow morning for the Patriots preview!

Miami rules Jerry, Odrick out for Monday’s game

10.02.10 at 7:28 pm ET
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Dolphins Injury Report
Out

G John Jerry (illness — did not practice)
DE Jared Odrick (ankle — did not practice)

Doubtful
LB Channing Crowder (groin — limited participation)

Probable
CB Nolan Carroll (hand — full participation)
T Jake Long (knee — full participation)

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