|Personnel changes give new look to Miami, Patriots|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 18 September 2008 10:43|
The Patriots and Dolphins who face each other Sunday look different than they did last year, with one major similarity: New England keeps winning and Miami keeps losing.
``You have a job to do, regardless of if Tom was there or not,'' Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas said. ``It's unfortunate that he's not there, and so it's business as usual.''
The Dolphins also are conducting business as usual. They were 0-13 before beating Baltimore in overtime and finishing 1-15 last season. Now they're 0-2
``We're that team now - the joke of the league.'' defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. ``You always hear it. It stinks. I don't want to hear that.''
The Patriots were 16-0 in the regular season last year and finished 18-1 after losing the Super Bowl. They're 2-0 this season and have won 21 straight regular-season games, an NFL record. The Dolphins have lost 20 of their last 21.
t year's collapse, Miami cleaned house.
Bill Parcells took charge and hired Jeff Ireland as general manager and Tony Sparano as coach. The Dolphins signed quarterback Chad Pennington after he was released by the Jets and have 27 players on their 53-man roster who were not with them at the end of last season.
Pass rushing star Taylor was traded to Washington after angering the Dolphins for appearing on the television show ``Dancing With the Stars'' rather than working out with the team in the offseason.
Brady would love to be able to dance but is out for the season after hurting his left knee in the season-opening 17-10 win over Kansas City.
The Patriots also lost star cornerback Asante Samuel as a free agent to Philadelphia. And the Dolphins released veteran linebacker Zach Thomas, who signed with Dallas.
``A lot of it's changed,'' Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light said. ``The way they're playing now is a lot different than what they played before.''
The results, though, haven't changed.
Two veteran quarterbacks, 38-year-old Brett Favre of the Jets and 37-year-old Kurt Warner of Arizona, exploited the secondary in the first two games, completing passes for a total of 570 yards.
``There's only one way to fix our problem,'' Holliday said, ``and that's working hard to stop making all the silly mistakes that we're making and the mental errors that are killing us.''
t the Dolphins won't face Brady, the NFL's reigning MVP. Cassel played well in his first start since high school, last Sunday's 19-10 win over the Jets. But he threw primarily short, safe passes and relied on a deep running game with Laurence Maroney, LaMont Jordan, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.
Cassel expects to be more comfortable now that his first start after three full seasons as Brady's backup is out of the way.
``You definitely adapt a little bit. You get a little more used to what goes on in the process of the week as a starter,'' Cassel said. ``This is now my second week doing it. It becomes a little bit easier.''
The Patriots have outscored opponents 36-20, while the Dolphins have been outscored 51-24 and been outgained by 132 1/2 yards per game. It's early, and both teams have a bye after they meet to try to make improvements.
But with a dominating defense, solid special teams and a full house to cheer Cassel in his first home start, the Patriots have a decided edge against a team that gave up pass plays of 79 and 75 yards to the Cardinals.
``One of them was a lack of communication,'' Sparano said. ``The other 70-yard play was the guy just outjumped us.''
With so many new players, poor communication is hardly surprising - on offense or defense.
ge, gain more insight into our offense, trying to execute it better.''
His mission this week? Hand the Patriots their first regular-season loss since Dec. 10, 2006.
The winner of that game? The Dolphins, 21-0.
On that day, Taylor led a Miami defense that frustrated Brady and sacked him four times. And Morris rushed for a career-high 123 yards - for the Dolphins.
Now Taylor is in the NFC, Brady is awaiting surgery and Morris is with the Patriots.
With all the changes, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said there's no need to dwell on the past. Even the recent past.
``Last year was last year,'' he said. ``It's about going out there now, improving on what you did last year and really forgetting about it.
``Those guys have a lot of pride. They know what happened to them last year in terms of the season, but they brought new guys in, a new philosophy, and those guys are out there playing hard. They're very athletic and they can beat you.''
That's more likely with Cassel at quarterback than with Brady. But even the Dolphins don't sound confident will happen.
``You have to play a pretty close to perfect game to give yourselves a chance,'' Holliday said. ``However they need to win it, they win it. They just know how to get it done. They know how to win.''