New England Patriots Look For a Fast Start in Miami This Sunday


Sunday's victory over the Minnesota Vikings just reaffirmed the fact that if the New England Patriots manage to catch the Kansas City Chiefs in the race for home field advantage, they're likely headed to a third consecutive Super Bowl. Opposing teams have to play damn near flawless football in order to win at Gillette Stadium; especially at this time of the year.

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The Vikings did everything you can't afford to do as an opposing team in Foxboro. You can't turn the ball over. Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions. You can't play conservative. How many times did Cousins check down to Dalvin Cook? I don't want to take anything away from the secondary, because they played very well; but Cousins rarely even tried to take a shot downfield. 

Lastly, you can't settle for field goals in the red zone. Though, they didn't technically reach the red zone, Minnesota had drives that reached New England's 22, and 21 yard-line before ultimately settling for field goal attempts.

As has been the case in most of the team's home games, the defense looked like a completely different unit than it does on the road. They held a very talented Vikings offense to just 10 points, and did so in a way we haven't seen in a long time; with organized chaos.

Brian Flores and the Patriots did their best to confuse Cousins all game. Play after play, there would be several Patriots meandering around the line of scrimmage pre-snap; not in any type of stance, just moving left to right, approaching the line of scrimmage and then backing off. It may have looked like members of the defense were wandering around aimlessly, but everything they did was with purpose.

It was nice to see. They very rarely, if ever, did that under Matt Patricia. Patricia preferred to just line up and play. That type of defense works if you have the individual talent of say a Jacksonville, or the talent Denver had a few years ago. The Patriots don't have that luxury and therefore need to scheme more. The style of defense we saw on Sunday is much more aggressive and can help to generate pressure on the quarterback. I hope to see more of that moving forward. 

The Patriots are now 6-0 at home and they've beaten some good competition. The combined record of their opponents is 41-29-2, and just about every one of those opponents is in playoff contention; and half of them will probably be playoff teams. I understand the Houston Texans were a much different team when New England beat them in Week 1, but the Patriots have evolved as well. 

One key to the team's success at home, fast starts; applying early pressure to their opponent. After a quick three and out for Minnesota, the Patriots scored a touchdown on their opening drive and had the Vikings down 7 points just five minutes into the game. That's been a recurring theme at Gillette Stadium this year. 

In its six home games, New England has outscored opposing teams 120-35 in the first half. They have allowed just two first half touchdowns, and none in the first quarter. The Patriots have allowed just 12 first quarter points at home, while putting up 41.  

It's once again time to bring this act on the road. The next two weeks will tell us all we need to know about the Patriots and their postseason hopes. A team that has failed to show up on the road on many occasions this year will play back to back road games against playoff contending teams. First up, the Miami Dolphins. 

At 6-6, Miami is still in the playoff race. Now, nobody looks at them as a true playoff contender, and even if they were to unexpectedly get in, they still wouldn't be taken seriously. Unfortunately, for the Patriots, how the rest of the league views the Dolphins doesn't matter. 

As a Pats fan, there are three places you never want to see them play: Miami, Denver and Kansas City. Games in these cities lead to heavy drinking. These are the few places where the Patriots and Tom Brady have not mastered winning. 

Time and time again, the Patriots have traveled to Miami, and the only cloud in the sky hangs above their heads. Talent discrepancy, record, time of year; none of that seems to matter when the Pats meet the Dolphins in Miami. People like to use the September heat and humidity as an excuse; the Pats have lost in Miami in September, October and December. 

Overall, New England sports a record of 16-37 at Miami. Yes, in the entirety of the team's history, the Pats have managed to win just 16 times in Miami. The presence of Brady hasn't mattered too much, as New England is 7-9 in Miami with Brady under center, including losses in four of the last five. 

As will be the case this Sunday, the Patriots have been the superior team in the large majority of these games since 2001; which has meant absolutely nothing. In more than half of those losses with Brady under center, Miami has entered the game with a losing record. On three of those occasions, the Patriots entered the game with at least 10 wins. 

If the Pats are going to buck the trend this Sunday, they need to get off to a good start. At this point, the poor play on the road this season is close to becoming a mental roadblock. The Pats have fallen behind in several road games this year and have rarely been able to respond. The more their road struggles continue, the more people start to talk about how they can't win on the road. They've always done a good job of ignoring the noise, but sometimes you can't avoid it. 

If they continue to struggle on the road, maybe they start to think that they can't win on the road. Attitudes like that make it very difficult to play from behind. A quick start on Sunday can go a long way clearing those mental obstacles.

Follow me on Twitter - @mcvay34



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Boston Sports Syndicate: New England Patriots Look For a Fast Start in Miami This Sunday
New England Patriots Look For a Fast Start in Miami This Sunday
Boston Sports Syndicate
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