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Five keys: Patriots at Dolphins

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  September 12, 2011 12:00 PM

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Our keys for the Patriots to come out with a victory tonight against the Miami Dolphins:

1. Limit Wake: Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake has quickly become a dominant outside pass rusher for the Dolphins. He wreaked havoc against the Patriots last year, especially the first matchup in Miami. The Patriots are going to have to know where he’s lined up at all times, and give either LT Matt Light or RT Sebastian Vollmer (now Nate Solder) some help. Light especially had a tough time against Wake’s quickness last year.

2. Get in Henne’s ear: Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne was, in a word, terrible against the Patriots last season. He was a combined 29 of 54 (53.7 percent) for 376 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Henne played scared, reacting to the rush before it was there, and throwing wildly. Henne has looked better this preseason. The Patriots are likely going with the mentality that if he feels pressure, Henne will revert to his old form.

3. Get off to a good start: The 2010 Patriots rolled during the regular season because they got up early on most opponents, and the opposing offensive coordinators instantly felt pressure to play catch-up with Tom Brady and Co. The longer the opponent can stay with its game plan, the more of a dogfight the Patriots will be in.

4. Stop the run: The Patriots had the most trouble with the teams that featured a balanced offensive attack -- including the Browns, who were coordinated by new Dolphin offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Stopping the run is cliché, but it does matter. Play the run better on first and second downs, and the opponent should face more third-and-longs, where the odds are with the defense.

5. Stay with the quick passing game: The Patriots will take some shots down the field – to whom, we’re not quite sure – but they’re at their best when Brady and his receivers are in an uptempo rhythm with their quick passing attack. The slower the Patriots play, the more the defense is affecting them.

THE PICK

The Dolphins will be very game at home and in the humidity, but the defense will force enough mistakes from Henne that home crowd turns, and the game will as well.

Patriots 24, Dolphins 17.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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