Dolphins’ turnaround gets tested by Brady and Patriots
The Miami Dolphins are playing so well that Reshad Jones’ somersault celebration has become a weekly feature, and he hopes to break it out against Tom Brady in prime time.
Jones has scored on an interception return two games in a row, punctuating each touchdown with an acrobatic vault across the goal line, to the consternation of his coaches and the delight of his teammates.
”I liked the second one better,” Miami cornerback Jamar Taylor said, ”because he did something with the ball – put it between his legs crazy.”
The Dolphins have been in a fun-loving mood lately, reviving their season with back-to-back blowout wins after Dan Campbell replaced Joe Philbin as coach. The turnaround will be tested by Brady and company Thursday when Miami (3-3) plays at AFC East leader New England (6-0), one of five remaining unbeaten teams.
Here are things to know about the 100th meeting between division rivals:
TAKEAWAY CHANCES: No player has ever scored on an interception return in three consecutive games, according to STATS. If Jones becomes the first, look for his best somersault yet.
”I’ve been working on it,” he said. ”Next time I’m going to try to land on my feet.”
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo worries about injury but concedes his efforts to discourage Jones have failed.
”We obviously don’t want him to keep doing it,” Anarumo said. ”If he keeps scoring touchdowns, there are worse things in the world, I guess.”
Against Brady, any kind of interception is unlikely, given he has thrown one this year in 251 passes. He leads the NFL with 16 touchdown passes, and he’s 12-1 at home against Miami, with his only loss in 2006.
”Probably the best quarterback ever,” Jones said.
COACHING MATCHUP: Campbell, 39, will try to become the first interim coach since 2000 to win his first three games, according to STATS. He has led a dramatic turnaround, with Miami outscoring the past two opponents 82-36 to rejoin the AFC playoff race.
While Campbell is 2-0, New England’s Bill Belichick is 217-109 with four Super Bowl titles. What advice might Belichick have for the NFL’s youngest head coach?
”Obviously coach Campbell has done a great job down there,” Belichick said. ”I don’t think he needs any help from me.”
SHORT WEEK: Neither team had much time to enjoy last week’s win, or to prepare for this week’s game. Anarumo, promoted to coordinator as part of the recent coaching shake-up, had four days to get ready for Brady.
”You wish you had a month,” Anarumo said.
A night practice Monday kept the Dolphins on the field until 9 p.m., and quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he would head back at the team complex at 6:30 the next morning. Players privately grumble about the short week, but Belichick said the challenges are overblown.
”The game will probably favor the team that makes the fewest mistakes and executes the best,” he said. ”That’s what it will come down to. I think the rest of it is just a bunch of hot air really.”
Perhaps he’s right, and surprisingly, the road team doesn’t seem to have a big disadvantage. Since 2012, the home team is only 28-23 on Thursday nights, according to STATS.
GAINING MOMENTUM: When Campbell took over, the Dolphins’ running game ranked next to last in the NFL. Miami ran for 180 yards against Tennessee and 248 against Houston, and now leads the league at 5.3 yards per attempt.
Running back Lamar Miller had 236 yards from scrimmage against the Titans – all in the first half before the rout sent starters to the bench.
”We’ve got a running back that’s running with his hair on fire,” Campbell said.
The Patriots are allowing opponents to rush for 4.5 yards per attempt, 24th in the league, but haven’t given up a rushing touchdown since the second week of the season.
TE ON TE: The Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski is tied for the league lead with six touchdown catches, and with 533 yards, he’s on pace to break the NFL record for receiving yardage in a season by a tight end.
Campbell, a former NFL tight end, is among those impressed.
”The guy is an animal, and he can do everything,” Campbell said. ”We’ll probably put the whole secondary on him and go from there.”
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