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Patriots Keys to Victory: Week 4 vs. Dolphins

"Ricky Williams"

The Patriots face a stiff challenge in the Miami Dolphins in Week 4. Coming off a disappointing loss to the New York Jets, the Fish will be determined to rebound at home.

New England meanwhile, travels to south Florida coming off a less than convincing 38-30 victory over the notorious AFC East basement-dwelling Bills.

Sun Life Stadium has been a house of horrors for Tom Brady and company over the past several seasons. In order for that Pats to emerge victorious on Monday night, Brady will have to get to the ball to his young tight ends, and the defense must shut down Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

Getting the tight ends involved on offense.

The Dolphins have had trouble defending opposing tight ends this season.

In their previous two games, the Miami defense surrendered a combined 184 yards and two touchdowns to Visanthe Shiancoe and Dustin Keller.

The Dolphins lack athleticism at the linebacker position; a big reason why they brought in free agent linebacker Karlos Dansby in the off season. Dansby has been a beast thus far, but his presence hasn’t been enough to stop the bleeding. The Miami defense is on pace to give up 1,099 yards and 11 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.

“We’ve got to do a little bit better job,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said.

No kidding.

The Pats don’t possess a stud tight end like Shiancoe or Keller, but rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are no slouches. Hernandez is averaging 70.3 receiving yards per game, and Gronkowski, quickly becoming one of Brady’s favorite red zone targets, already has two touchdown receptions.

I expect both Hernandez and Gronkowksi to get involved early and often against Miami. If they do, it could be a long Monday night for Sparano’s defense.

Stopping the Dolphins’ two-headed monster.

The Dolphins are a power football team. They want to impose their will on the opposing defense, and possess the ball for as long as possible. They do so by using the wildcat formation more than any team in the NFL.

It may sound cliché, and obvious for that matter, but the Patriots must stop the run on Monday night. Miami’s success usually hinges on Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combining for at least 100 yards.

Last week, Quarterback Chad Henne and wide receiver Brandon Marshall were spectacular against the New York Jets. Henne completed 26/44 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns, while Marshall caught 10 balls for 166 yards and a touchdown.

But it was all in a losing effort.

The more important stat: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for just 82 yards.

The Patriots will give themselves the best chance to win if they consistently put eight men in the box and put the game in Henne’s hands. But with the way the young Miami quarterback is slinging it, there are no guarantees.

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