Patriots’ perceptions and Dolphins’ reality to meet in Miami

Andy Hart
September 10, 2019 - 9:47 am
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The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.

Listen to your team news NOW.

The Dolphins are going to go winless.

Those are the immediate (over?)reactions to the opening weekend of NFL action that included the New England dominatingly dismissing the Steelers 33-3 in Foxborough while Miami melted in the sun of southern Florida in a 59-10 home loss to the Ravens.

Oh, and Bill Belichick’s team is adding former All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown to the playmaking mix this week, while Brian Flores’ squad reportedly has players requesting a trade, a reprieve off the floundering Dolphins.

Much like a single dot can’t possibly make a line, a single week of action can’t possibly prove what a team is going to be over the long haul on an NFL season.

Sure, all signs point to the defending champion Patriots being in line to defend that Super Bowl title come January. And plenty of factors indicate Flores and Co. are just as focused on next spring’s draft as they are winning football games this fall.

But we need to remember that trips to Miami, especially early in the season, can be anything but fun for New England. The heat, the stadium, the beach, something simply tends to happen when the Patriots fly south to South Beach.

New England has lost five of its last six annual trips to play in Miami. Each of those losing teams went on to at least the AFC title game. A year ago a squad that would go on to win Super Bowl LIII lost on the Miami Miracle final snap.

So two teams that appear to be at opposite ends of the opening weekend overreaction spectrum will fight it out Sunday afternoon in the hot sun of Hard Rock Stadium.

It should be a slam dunk blowout for Belichick’s boys and a forbearer of future beatdowns for Flores’ troops.

At least that’s the perception of the outside world.

Inside Gillette Stadium they are taking a more measured approach to preparation, as one might expect under any coach, certainly Belichick.

“It’s a fact. Not making anything of it. We lost five of the last six games down there,” Belichick told the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria show in weekly appearance on Monday afternoon. “We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better. It’s as simple as that. We know Miami has a good football team. I’m sure they’ll be tough on Sunday. I’m not really worried about what happened last week. Certainly when you have a new team like that the rate of improvement can be pretty rapid. We just need to have a good week of preparation. They have a lot of new players, guys that we haven’t worked against. Obviously new schemes, even though we are familiar with the coaches. I’m sure they’ll do things schematically that will hurt us. We got beat by Detroit last year in a similar situation. So I think we have our work cut out for us as a coaching staff and as an entire football team, players, coaches and all of us. We need a good week. We need to do a good job down there, better than we have in five of the last six meetings.”

Julian Edelman actually got the ball rolling on the process of not getting too high on the Patriots or low on the Dolphins with his comments immediately following the blowout of Big Ben and the Steelers.

“It was good to go out there and establish what we did, a starting point,” Edelman said. “Now we have to move on and get ready for Miami.

“It’s never as good as you think it is and it’s never as bad as you think it is,” he added, in what easily could have been a preemptive warning for his team and pep talk for the Dolphins.

“We always find stuff that we can improve on. Yeah, we won. That’s this week. We’re on to next week now,” undrafted rookie punt returner Gunner Olszewski said Monday afternoon, sounding very much a veteran. “Trying to figure out what we can do to get better. It’s sometimes harder to look at stuff you need to improve on after a big win like that. But I think we did a good job today of locking in and really looking ourselves in the mirror and seeing what we can do better.”

“We watched the film and have a lot of things to clean up, that’s for sure. We’re nowhere near the team we need to be,” Rex Burkhead added. “It’s a long road.”

Yes it is, for better or worse.

If this is to be a different kind special season in New England, an indication of that might come this weekend. If this as some potentially historic march by a unique Patriots squad, there will be no letdown or strange struggles in Miami. There will be no road hiccup similar to those that came last September at this time in Jacksonville and Detroit.

If the Patriots are indeed as dominantly good as they looked on Sunday night against Pittsburgh they will prove it again in Miami.

And if the Dolphins are as bad as they looked against Baltimore then this game could get downright ugly.

But one week doesn’t prove anything. One game can be pretty misleading this time of year.

Or, it could be a sign of things to come.

Only time, and performance, will tell.

Related: Patriots WR Gunner Olszewski suffered broken nose vs. Steelers