edit: Sincere condolences to the families and friends of those involved in the tragedy in Kansas City. The event puts a somber mood on what would have been a very enjoyable weekend of college and pro football.

Note: yesterday I previewed the Miami offense; today I take a brief look at the Dolphins’ defense.

Before the season began I felt that the defense of the Miami Dolphins was not only highly underrated, but it was easily the best defense in the AFC East. While their D isn’t bad, it was actually me who was over estimating them.

For Miami to win on Sunday they need to not only stop the Patriots, but get some turnovers and maybe even score on defense. The problem is twofold: the Pats don’t turn the ball over, leading the league with just eight turnovers; add to that the fact that Miami has gone four games without forcing a turnover and there is little reason to believe that those trends will suddenly reverse.

A year ago the Pats tore up the Dolphin’s defense with the no huddle, leaving Miami players gasping for air and gashing them for 517 passing yards in a 38-24 win in south Florida. Granted this is a different coaching staff, but this Dolphins team has not faced that type of offense since then. Holding up cards in practice is fine, but it doesn’t accurately simulate the real-life tempo of those game conditions.

Up front DE Cameron Wake is having a great season, but the Patriots’ offensive line has done an exceptional job in general in protecting Brady. DT Paul Soliai is a good run-stopper, and DT Randy Starks is effective collapsing the pocket. The linebacking crew of Karlos Dansby, Koa Misi and Kevin Burnett are also effective against the run, but who is going to cover Aaron Hernandez? Other than Sean Smith the Miami secondary is nothing to write home about; their situation at safety is just screaming to be exploited.

The Dolphins’ defense is one that matches up well with teams that have to rely on their running game and struggle in pass protection; neither of those traits applies to the New England offense. Brady’s quick release allows for him to get rid of the ball before the defenders can get to him, and Miami’s back seven won’t be able to consistently cover all the options in the passing game.

Defensively the Dolphins are on average allowing 20.5 points per game; that’s a whole 1.7 points better than the Pats D. On the other side of the ball the Patriots offense is averaging about 18 more points per game than Miami is.

Prediction: Patriots 34, Dolphins 20

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This Day In Patriots History

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December 1, 1963:
Boston Patriots 17, Buffalo Bills 7 at Fenway Park
Babe Parilli passed for one touchdown and ran for another as the Pats came out on top in a defensive struggle. Both teams had trouble passing the ball (a combined 32-83) on a cold, windy day in Boston, but Parilli hit Larry Garron on a short pass and he ran it in 44 yards to get the Pats on the scoreboard and tie the game in the 3rd quarter. After Parilli’s 2-yard run gave the Patriots the lead, Gino Cappelletti somehow managed to kick a 43-yard field goal through the wind to ice the game for the Pats. Larry Eisenhauer and Ron Hall both came up with key interceptions for the defense.

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December 1, 1968:
Boston Patriots 33, Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Fenway Park
The Pats jumped out to a 26 point first half lead and cruised from there to an easy victory, as Tom Sherman threw three touchdown passes, including two to Jim Whalen (6 catches for 79 yards). Jim Nance ran for 81 yards and a touchdown, and Gino Cappelletti caught an 18-yard TD; on defense Jim Cheyunski had an interception and Doug Satcher had a safety. The victory turned out to be the final win for Mike Holovak as head coach of the Patriots, who was fired after the season ended.

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December 1, 1974:
Oakland Raiders 41, New England Patriots 26 at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium
Ken Stabler threw four touchdowns – two to Cliff Branch, who had 138 yards receiving - and the Raiders improved to 10-2 on the season while the Pats fell to 7-5. Jim Plunkett hit Randy Vataha on a 59-yard TD in the 3rd quarter that would have tied the score, but the extra point was botched. After Branch’s second TD reception the Raiders picked off Plunkett and returned it 22 yards for another score. Plunkett came back with a 17-yard TD to Al Marshall to cut the lead to 8, but that was as close as the Pats would get. For Marshall that was not just the only touchdown of his NFL career, it was the only reception in his career as well. Plunkett finished with 281 yards and two touchdowns, Vataha had 93 yards receiving, and Mack Herron had 247 all-purpose yards (54 rushing, 53 receiving, 125 on kick returns and 13 on punt returns); on defense Ron Bolton intercepted Stabler twice.

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December 1, 1975:
Miami Dolphins 20, New England Patriots 7 at the Orange Bowl
The Dolphins held the Patriots out of the end zone until the 4th quarter on Monday Night Football, limiting the Pats to 72 yards rushing en route to their 8th win of the season. Russ Francis had five receptions for 80 yards, and Steve Grogan scored the only New England touchdown on a 5-yard keeper.

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December 1, 1985:
New England Patriots 38, Indianapolis Colts 34 at the Hoosier Dome
The Pats overcame 14 penalties for 112 yards, scoring twice in the 4th quarter to hold off the Colts and improve their record to 9-3. Tony Eason went 20-28 for 293 yards and three touchdowns; his second TD pass to Stanley Morgan in the 4th quarter gave the Pats a 14-point lead that Indy could not recover from. Irving Fryar scored on a 6-yard toss and also had a 52-yard reception, Tony Collins had 145 yards from scrimmage, and Craig James and Mosi Tatupu both had touchdown runs for the Pats.

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December 1, 1991:
Denver Broncos 20, New England Patriots 3 at Mile High Stadium
Denver’s defense was just too much for the Pats, as they forced four turnovers, sacked Hugh Millen five times and picked him off twice. Irving Fryar had four receptions for 81 yards, and the only points came on a 23-yard field goal by Charlie Baumann.

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December 1, 1996:
New England Patriots 45, San Diego Chargers 7

The Pats beat up the Chargers literally and figuratively in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football, improving to 9-4 and closing within one game of clinching a playoff spot.

Stan Humphries could be seen on the sideline holding his hands to the earholes on his helmet with a wide-eyed faraway look after being knocked out of the game by Mike Jones, and was eventually hospitalized overnight. The Pats defense harassed him all night, inducing him to turn the ball over four times within a span of 14:48 on a fumble and three interceptions; they added one more pick off his replacement, Sean Salisbury.

Drew Bledsoe threw for a career high four touchdowns, all going to different receivers, as the Pats won their 4th straight road game. Bledsoe had only one incomplete pass in the first two series as the Pats went up 14-0 on TD passes of 8 yards to Terry Glenn and 19 yards to Keith Byars; a Humphries TD pass late in the 1st quarter made it 14-7. Sam Gash had a 7-yard touchdown reception and then Willie McGinest scored on a strip sack; a 47 yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri put the Pats up 31-7 at halftime. After the intermission Shawn Jefferson caught an 11-yard TD and later in the 3rd quarter Larry Whigham stripped the ball away from the San Diego punt returner, and Corwin Brown picked up the fumble and ran it in 42 yards for the final score. For their efforts Bledsoe was named NFL Player Of The Week, and McGinest was named AFC Defensive Player Of The Week.

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December 1, 1944:
Bette Midler, John Densmore (drummer for The Doors), and Eric Bloom (singer, rhythm guitar for Blue Öyster Cult) were all born

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December 1, 1977:
Brad Delson (guitar player for Linkin Park) was born

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Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

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