It was a benchmark, the light at the end of the camp's tunnel and the goal in mind in terms of progressing as a team. But the Patriots also spent plenty of time doing things with the Dolphins in mind — a "confidential" amount of homework, according to safety Patrick Chung.
"They're a great team. They have good additions, and we have to be ready for them. They're going to be ready. We're going to be ready. It's going to be a good game."
Left guard Logan Mankins said the Patriots' preparations for the Dolphins happened "off and on." Obviously, things will heighten a great deal this week in terms of the game plan.
Teams always spend a portion of training camp prepping for the opponent in the regular-season opener. Since the Patriots are taking on a divisional foe, they had even more incentive to study up on the Dolphins. They likely did some work on the Jets and Bills, too.
"[The Dolphins were] in the back of our mind, you said it, but preseason, we're playing every game one by one," Chung said. "But now that Miami is here, now it can be in the front of our mind. It's time to go. I'm the most simple person. It's time to go, time to play football, time to have some fun."
New England also caught a break by playing at Tampa Bay in the preseason. It allowed the Patriots to get a feel for the Florida heat and humidity, and it got them used to a proper week of preparation in terms of hydration and self-preservation. Monday's weather in Miami calls for a high of 86 degrees and 78-85 percent humidity, according to The Weather Channel.
"Miami will be playing in the heat, also," said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who is from Florida and played college football at Miami. "Being from the south, you never get used to the heat. The heat is the heat. One thing we try not to do is focus on weather because we're playing against the Dolphins. The Dolphins are playing against the Patriots. If you allow the weather to be a factor, that's where you make a mistake. Our goal is to go down and play some good football, execute well, execute our game plan and not fight the weather. Whatever it's going to be, it's going to be. You can't control that. We only can control what we can control, so that's getting off to a good start and executing."
It's all part of the process of training camp, and there was no way the Patriots were going to wait until Monday's practice and meetings to take their first look at the Dolphins.