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Devin McCourty as a captain and other things to look for in Patriots-Dolphins opener

09.12.11 at 1:11 pm ET

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The Patriots take the field tonight in Miami Gardens as a team bound and determined to learn from the last two seasons that ended prematurely in postseason losses on their home turf to the Ravens and Jets, respectively.

They’ll do so with three new captains – Devin McCourty, Logan Mankins and Matthew Slater– joining the established leadership of Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo.

McCourty, in his second season, provided leadership in his rookie season out of Rutgers simply by the way he played.

He became just the fourth player in Patriots history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, joining Mike Haynes (1976), John Stephens (1988) and Curtis Martin (1995).

His seven interceptions in 2010 fell just one shy of Haynes’ Patriots rookie team record. One of McCourty’s seven picks came against a quarterback he’ll be facing at Sun Life Stadium tonight – Chad Henne.

Some other morsels to chew on in advance of tonight’s game:

* Tom Brady is 12-6 career vs. the Dolphins, with five of the six losses coming in the same stadium he’ll be playing in this evening. His only loss at home to the Dolphins came on Jan. 1, 2006, when he played just the first quarter. Brady is 4-5 all-time in South Florida, including the only shutout loss of his career, 21-0, on Dec. 10, 2006 – also a Monday night.

* The Patriots and Dolphins have met 15 times in prime time, with the two teams tied 5-5 when meeting on Monday night.

* When these two AFC East rivals meet on Monday night, you can almost always bet it will be in South Florida. Nine of the previous 10 have come in Miami Gardens, including last year’s 41-14 Patriots win.

* As Brady pointed out this week, if it weren’t for the special teams last year in Miami, the game could’ve gone the other way. The Patriots received two blocked kicks and a pick-6 from Patrick Chung. The Patriots scored on a blocked field goal, kick-off return, interception, rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown, becoming the first team in NFL history to score a TD five different ways.

* The Dolphins still lead the all-time series 50-41 but the Patriots lead the playoff series, 2-1, and have won seven of the last 10 encounters, including a series sweep in 2010.

* Since Bill Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, the Dolphins have given him the most trouble in the division, as he has just a 13-9 (.591) record. Also consider: Since 2001, the Patriots own a 48-14 record against AFC East foes, the best intra-divisional mark of any NFL team. Exactly half of those 14 losses have come against the Dolphins as the Pats have gone 13-7. The Pats are 14-6 against the Jets in that span and 19-1 against the Bills.

* Another player to keep an eye on tonight is Wes Welker. In seven career games against his former team, Welker has caught 55 passes for 683 yards and two TDs. He is averaging 7.8 catches and 98 receiving yards per game against the Fish. He has three career 100-yard games against Miami, all in South Florida. He totaled 138 yards on Oct. 21, 2007, 120 yards on Nov. 23, 2008 (with Matt Cassel) and 167 yards on 10 catches on Dec. 6, 2009.

* The Dolphins will have a point to prove after matching a franchise record for home futility in 2010. They went 1-7 on home turf, tying the 2007 team that went 1-15, with that one win coming against the Ravens. In 2010, their only home win came against the Titans, 29-17, on Nov. 14.

Be sure to follow throughout the evening as Patriots beat writer Chris Price will be on the scene in Miami Gardens while Mike Petraglia, Kirk Minihane and Paul Flannery will break down the game during and after the 2011 season opener.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, ESPN, Miami Dolphins



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