FOXBORO, Mass. —The Patriots and Dolphins will capture the national spotlight in Week 4, as the division foes meet up for a Monday night slugfest off the shores of South Beach.
It’s early in the season, but the AFC East implications are massive, as the Patriots (2-1, 1-1 AFC East) and Dolphins (2-1, 1-1) are trying to stay on pace with the Jets.
Those same Jets will likely gain a game on whoever loses this Monday night tilt as New York is taking on the lowly Bills on Sunday.
WHEN AND WHERE
Monday, Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m. Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Dolphins lead the all-time series, 50-39, including the Patriots’ 2-1 edge in the postseason. The Dolphins are 33-11 against the Pats in Miami, including a 15-8 mark in the current building, which has also been named Dolphins Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and Joe Robbie Stadium.
Interestingly, the Dolphins have hosted 13 of the 14 prime-time games between these teams. Miami is 5-4 against the Pats on Monday night, including a 5-3 mark in Florida.
The Patriots have won 10 of their last 15 meetings with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins might be itching to run their Wildcat, but the Patriots have long since found the Benadryl for that. So, the big-time matchup will be between New England’s secondary and Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound matchup nightmare.
Marshall has 22 catches for 290 yards and one touchdown in his first season in Miami, and he went off for 10 catches, 166 yards and one score last week against the Jets, who lined up equally-imposing cornerback Antonio Cromartie against him.
Marshall was a brute last year when his Broncos beat the visiting Patriots, as he caught eight passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught 14 passes for 141 yards and two scores in three career games against New England.
Marshall spends most of his time lined up wide to the left side of the offense, which will put him across from either Kyle Arrington or Darius Butler. Arrington is the more physical of the two cornerbacks, so he might be a better option for the Patriots.
There’s no doubt that Marshall will do some damage, but the Patriots have to make sure he doesn’t take over the game.
The Patriots are 44-14 against AFC East opponents since 2001, and half of those losses have come against the Dolphins. The Pats are 11-7 against Miami in that span.
Wide receiver Wes Welker has caught 47 passes for 613 yards and two touchdowns in six career games against Miami. Welker has averaged 7.8 receptions and 102.2 yards per game against his former team, and those are his best averages against any team he has played more than once.
The Patriots rank 27th in the NFL in total defense (379.3 yards per game) and 28th in points allowed per game (27.3).
The Patriots are 17-22 all-time on Monday Night Football, including 10-5 under head coach Bill Belichick.
Quarterback Tom Brady is 10-6 in his career against the Dolphins (including a loss late in the 2005 season when he only played in the first quarter), and he has completed 265-of-453 passes (58.5 percent) for 3,131 yards, 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Brady is 8-4 on Monday Night Football, and he has completed 270-of-426 passes (63.4 percent) for 3,189 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Dolphins have run 15 Wildcat plays this season for a total of 29 yards and no touchdowns. Running back Ronnie Brown (10 carries, 24 yards), running back Ricky Williams (three carries, 12 yards), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (one carry, -1 yard) and running back Patrick Cobbs (one carry, -6 yards) have accounted for those 15 plays.
Miami has run 189 total offensive plays, which means 7.9 percent have been Wildcat plays.
Since the 1970 merger, the Dolphins have a 374-243-2 record (.604 winning percentage), and their 374 victories are one shy of Pittsburgh for the most in the league over that span.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall is on pace for 129 receptions this season, which would give him his fourth consecutive season with at least 100 catches. O.J. McDuffie set the Dolphins’ single-season record with 90 receptions in 1998. Marshall would only need to average 5.3 receptions in the next 13 games to break that mark.
Quarterback Chad Henne has nine career victories, which is tied for the eighth most in team history. Henne, who has 3,604 career passing yards, needs 462 yards to pass Chad Pennington for sixth in Dolphins history.
Slot receiver Davone Bess caught 35 passes on third down in 2009, which was the most among any Dolphin since 1991. Also, 85 of Bess’ 143 career catches (59.4 percent) have resulted in a first down.
From Thursday’s practice report
Quarterback Tom Brady (shoulder) fully participated and will play.
Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur (back) did not practice and will not play.
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot) did not practice and will unlikely play.
Running back Fred Taylor (toe) did not practice, and his status is uncertain.
Guard John Jerry (illness) did not practice and is questionable.
Defensive end Jared Odrick (ankle) did not practice and is questionable.
Linebacker Channing Crowder (groin) had limited participation and is questionable.
Left tackle Jake Long (knee) fully participated and will play.
Until the Patriots prove they can beat a legitimate team on the road, it’s tough to feel optimistic about their chances. They’ve lost seven of their eight true road games since the start of 2009 (not including the victory against the Bucs in London), and they’ve experienced the same types of second-half issues.
Miami is a solid team with a great coaching staff and a balanced offense that will be tough for the Patriots to contain, but the Dolphins remain a work in progress on defense. There is a good chance this will be a fairly high-scoring game, which bodes well for the Patriots. However, they’re going to have to prove they can finish a road opponent.