Patriots-Dolphins matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Dec. 20, 2011 @ 4:31 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 16 game between the Patriots and Dolphins:

Patriots defense vs. Dolphins RB Reggie Bush

This is a potential matchup Miami can exploit in its effort to upset the Patriots in Foxborough. Bush is having a career season and the Patriots have struggled to defend the run of late.

Against the Broncos last Sunday, the Patriots gave up 252 rushing yards, struggling to set the edge and keep the Broncos' backs and QB Tim Tebow from getting to the second level. The week prior, the Redskins, behind rookie Roy Helu, ran for 170 yards on Bill Belichick's defense.

We all know about the issues in the pass defense, but the Patriots are supposed to be stout up front, which makes up for a lack of personnel in the secondary. It hasn't looked that way in recent weeks, and it keeps the Patriots from dropping more players back to help the pass defense.

Bush rushed for a career-high 203 yards last week against the Bills, including a 76-yard touchdown run. He has 973 rushing yards and 270 receiving yards this season and is on a streak of three consecutive 100-yard rushing games (406 yards over that span).

In the Dolphins' surge (they have won 5-of-7 games), Bush has seen his touches increase and Miami is finding ways to get him out into space, where he is so dangerous. Patriots LBs Dane Fletcher, Tracy White and Rob Ninkovich will need to work to contain Bush and keep him from getting to the outside.

In the middle, the Patriots are good up front with DTs Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love, but they are without DE Andre Carter, meaning Mark Anderson, who is known more for his pass rushing, will need to step up. Jerod Mayo, the leader of the defense, mans the middle and will need to keep an eye on Bush on screen plays.

The Patriots are likely to be without ILB Brandon Spikes, again, and he would provide a big help to the run defense. If S Patrick Chung returns, that provides another player who is good against the run. The Patriots' DBs will have to tackle better than they did against Denver.

In Week One, Bush was held in check on the ground with 11 carries for 38 yards, but he was a weapon as a receiver, hauling in nine passes for 56 yards, including a touchdown.

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