Dolphins tasked with slowing down Tom Brady
DAVIE, Fla. — It’s probably not a good idea to compare your rookie quarterback to Tom Brady the week your team plays New England.
Perhaps that’s why Miami center Mike Pouncey played it coy on Wednesday when asked to expound upon having last month compared Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Patriots star.
“I said that?’’ Pouncey said before laughing. “You sure? That a rookie reminded me of Tom Brady?’’
Yes, Pouncey said it.
“Tannehill’s a smart quarterback,’’ Pouncey, whose Dolphins host the Patriots on Sunday, told FOX Sports Florida on Oct. 24. “I think he’s going to be one of those elite guys like Tom Brady when it comes said and done. Just his composure. His leadership in the huddle right now is just phenomenal. … I do see Tom, and the way he coordinates and runs his offense is the same as Tannehill does.”
It’s obviously quite premature to compare Tannehill, 31st in the NFL in passing efficiency, to Brady, a future Hall of Famer who has three Super Bowl rings. Nevertheless, Tannehill did thank Pouncey for speaking well of him.
“It may be a little early for the comparisons,’’ Tannehill said. “But I appreciate the compliment.’’
Tannehill wasn’t told Pouncey has backed off from the compliment. Then again, perhaps there’s no sense in saying anything additional that could end up on a bulletin board in New England.
Brady has riddled the Dolphins in recent years. In the past eight games against them, he’s averaged 303.3 yards passing and the Patriots have won seven. Brady last season threw for an incredible 821 yards in two wins against Miami.
“Well, I think we’ve executed well against them, those games,’’ Brady said about his success in recent years against the Dolphins, including throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions in a 49-28 rout at Miami in 2007. “But those games really have no impact on this particular week.’’
The Patriots (8-3) are thinking about clinching the AFC East, which they would do with a win on Sunday. The Dolphins (5-6) are worrying about staying alive in the playoff race as they approach a game linebacker Karlos Dansby calls a must win and like a “playoff.’’
As usual, a key for Miami will be trying to at least somewhat slow Brady. At 35, he’s having one of the better seasons of his illustrious 13-year career, having completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 3,299 yards with 24 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
“We definitely got to get pressure on him to rattle him a little bit to get him off key and make him hold the ball a little longer than he can be expected to,’’ Dansby said. “It’s very hard (to rattle Brady) but it can be done. The Giants did it twice.’’
Dansby, unlike Pouncey, isn’t worried about what he’s saying this week. He, of course, is referring to Super Bowl losses by the Patriots to the Giants last February and in February 2008.
Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, who looked on rather helplessly last year as Brady threw for a career-high 517 yards against the Dolphins in the opener and 304 in the next-to-last game, spoke with more reverence about Brady. But Smith said the Dolphins have to do whatever it takes to get a victory, something they last did in 2009 in Miami despite Brady throwing for 352 yards.
“I don’t care if the man throws for 1,000 yards,’’ Smith said. “As long as we come out with a W, that’s all that matters.’’
Despite averaging 12.3 wins over the past seven seasons, New England surprisingly has not gotten a W in a Super Bowl since the 2004-05 season.
When Brady won the first of his two Super Bowl MVPs in 2002, Tannehill was 13 and growing up in West Texas. He remembers Brady and the Pats winning three of four Super Bowls between 2002 and ’05 well.
“It will be fun playing against not only Tom, but a good New England team,’’ Tannehill said about facing Brady and company for the first time. “Right when they hit their stretch in the early 2000s, that’s when I was in junior high about that age.
“That’s when I started watching guys and understanding football a little bit. So, of course, I watched him. I’ve continued to watch him and follow him throughout his career.’’
It remains to be seen whether Tannehill, who has completed 59 percent of his passes for a Miami-rookie-record 2,373 yards but has just seven TD passes to 12 interceptions, can follow Brady to NFL greatness. When Brady was asked on Wednesday if there was any validity to Pouncey’s comparison, he mostly talked around it.
“You know, I haven’t had a chance to see Ryan play too much,’’ Brady said. “I’ll certainly get a chance to see him play in person, but I always hear great things about him. So, obviously, his teammates think a lot of him. That’s important because if you don’t have the respect of your teammates then you’re never going to be a good leader for the team.’’
His teammates indeed respect Tannehill. But if you want to hear to hear Pouncey compare him to Brady, it’s better to ask during a week the Dolphins aren’t facing the Patriots.