- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is not the kind of player a team wants to face on a three-game losing streak. However, that’s the position the Miami Dolphins (3-3) are in heading into Sunday’s game against the first-place Patriots (5-2).
Miami is desperately looking for a win and is heading to a place where it rarely has success. The Dolphins haven’t beaten Brady and the Patriots in Foxborough since 2008. History says Miami doesn't have a strong chance of avoiding a fourth-straight loss.
However, Brady isn’t having his typical Pro Bowl season. Brady's passer rating (75.3) is way down compared to his career average (95.7). He's only completing 55.4 percent of his passes and has been sacked 20 times already this season. New England’s passing game also is ranked 20th in the NFL with Brady at the helm.
“I’m not buying any of that,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of Brady's stats. “This guy is one of the best ever. They are playing well and we have to expect them to play extremely well.”
The Dolphins are preparing for the best version of Brady when they face the Patriots on Sunday. The Dolphins believe, at some point, Brady will be Brady again. It could happen this week against a struggling Dolphins team that is 25th in defending the pass.
Brady experienced a lot of growing pains this year with a new cast of receivers. There have been dropped passes, poor timing and an increased number of sacks. Still, New England has a 5-2 record with plenty of room to grow. Brady is only going to make his inexperienced supporting cast better as the season progresses.
“You got to be on your Ps and Qs,” Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “It’s always a chess match when going against Brady. You got to stay on your film extra longer. You just got to stay focused. You can’t get rattled when they make plays, because they’re going to make plays.”
Last season was the tale of two Bradys for the Dolphins. In the first game in Miami, the Dolphins got to Brady and lost a close, 23-16, contest. It was the opposite in Foxborough during the regular-season finale. Brady had plenty of time in the pocket, was only sacked once and picked Miami apart in a 28-0 victory for the Patriots.
The Dolphins know the key to beating the Patriots is to rattle Brady. Expect that to be a big part of Miami's gameplan on Sunday.
“He puts his pants on one leg at a time, and he probably doesn’t like getting hit, just like any other quarterback,” Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake said. “We’ve obviously played him quite a few times and gotten to him. Like any other person, if we get him off his spot, mess up his timing and hit him, he’s not going to be the same guy patting the ball and throwing it downfield.”
Brady saw the return of his best weapon last week: Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. That makes Miami’s challenge on defense more daunting. History shows Brady won’t maintain a 75.3 passer rating all year, and Sunday could be the type of quarterback performance New England has been waiting for.