For all the mystique Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots seem to carry, the Miami Dolphins broke right through it the last time these two teams met. The Dolphins’ 24-20 victory in December 2013 kept the Pats from clinching their playoff spot. While there aren’t playoff implications in today’s Dolphins / Patriots season opener, there’s certainly reason to watch the teams battle.
The Dolphins’ 2013 win came at the last moment when reserve safety Michael Thomas intercepted a fourth-down pass from Tom Brady in the end zone with two seconds left. Brady had thrown for 364 yards in the game, but three extended drives produced only six points.
Today Brady will ignore that recent history and focus on the bigger picture. The Patriots have won their past 10 season openers, while the Dolphins have gone 3-7 during that same span. With the Patriots expected to have tight end Rob Gronkowski back for today’s Dolphins game, history also seems on Brady’s side.
The Patriots neared a 70% efficiency rate with their All-Pro tight end on the field last season. Without him they dipped closer to 40%. Gronk came out this week and said he’d be play, though Bellichick promptly put the kibosh on that and said “we’ll see.”
Gronkowski will surely play, but the number of snaps he’ll see is unknown. With the Dolphins having just the 21st-ranked defense in the NFL last season, there’s likely no need to rush him back.
With that said, the Patriots had the league’s 26th-ranked defense, which has to have Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill drooling. New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has instituted a faster tempo a la Chip Kelly, as well as some new route combinations and motions. That should all help Tannehill improve his stats from 2013, when he went 355-for-588 in passing for 3,913 yards and 24 TDs with 17 interceptions.
The bigger story in today’s Patriot’s game may actually be how Miami’s defense responds to Brady and the New England offense. Miami’s defensive line is one of its best in years, with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon locking things down. Watch to see if they can work with tackles Jared Odrick and Randy Starks to keep pressure on Brady. If their blitz packages work, the Dolphins could make things interesting.
Today’s Dolphins / Patriots game is scheduled to kickoff at 1pm EST / 10am PST. The game will be broadcast live on CBS. Alternatively, you can watch Dolphins vs Patriots online free live streaming on DirecTV’s website if you have the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX package. That package requires a subscription, but all subscribers can watch the game online free via the DirecTV live stream if they’re stuck watching via their smartphone, tablet or PC.