The Miami Dolphins and interim coach Dan Campbell will be facing an extremely tall order when they meet the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots tonight in New England.
In modern NFL history, there have been nine interim bosses who have been asked to coach a Thursday road game on three-day’s preparation time. Such as is happening here. Only once did that traveling team prevail, and that occurred 46 years ago when San Diego’s Charlie Waller, in his third game as boss after Sid Gillman resigned, directed the Chargers to a 21-17 victory over the Houston Oilers in the old AFL.
Campbell also is in his third game on the job, but those Oilers finished 6-6-2. These Patriots are 6-0. And he’ll be going against Bill Belichick, who will be coaching in his 327th game.
Now for a closer look at this matchup. The odds are provided by Westgate Las Vegas.
THURSDAY – PRO FOOTBALL
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (6-0)
Time: 5:25 p.m. PDT
Line: Patriots by 7.5 (51)
Facts: The Patriots had nine rushes last week in their 30-23 home victory against the Jets, with QB Tom Brady leading the way with 15 yards on four carries. The last team to win with so few carries was Dallas vs. Minnesota two years ago… NE is the only team to score at least 28 points in each of its games. In 2007, though, the Pats started with eight straight games of 34-plus points... Miami hasn’t won in NE since 2008, when unveiling the Wildcat and flummoxed the Patriots 38-13, albeit with Brady out (knee). That remains the most lopsided home loss in the Belichick era.
Miami led 41-0 vs. Houston last week at halftime en route to a 44-26 win. It hadn’t scored that many points in a game since beating Detroit 49-21 in the 2002 season opener... Campbell is trying to become the first interim boss to win his first three games and also cover each since Cincinnati’s Bruce Coslet in 1996.
Analysis: The Dolphins have been on a two-week tear since Campbell took over for fired Joe Philbin after Miami’s dreary 1-3 start. Last week, QB Ryan Tannehill set an NFL record with his 25th straight completion, but that still leaves him as the league’s 15th-rated passer. And those two wins came while playing from ahead almost the whole way against Tennessee and Houston squads that are a cumulative 3-10. Miami might still get its rushing movement behind Lamar Miller (419 yards), but Tannehill will be facing a defense front that is adept at knocking down passes and confounding better QBs than he is.
If the Patriots could get 30 points against the Jets’ then-No. 1-rated defense without a running game, there’s little reason to think that point total can’t get higher here. Not to mention, in all likelihood Belichick will outwit Campbell at some juncture.
Forecast: Patriots 38, Dolphins 20
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].