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Pats’ Belichick vs. Dolphins’ Campbell — matchup or mismatch?

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DAVIE, Fla. — The coaching matchup between the New England Patriots’ multiple Super Bowl veteran Bill Belichick and Miami Dolphins interim hopeful Dan Campbell is almost as intriguing as the on-field matchup between players.

Campbell, whose theme of competitive practices has jolted the Dolphins into impressive back-to-back victories, is entering his third NFL game as a head coach.

Belichick, who has won four Super Bowls and dominated the AFC East for about a dozen years, is considered one of the NFL’s best coaches ever.

Who gets the advantage? It’s tough to say because Campbell is such an unknown quantity.

But listen to how much emphasis Patriots quarterback Tom Brady puts on coaching.

“Coaching is hugely important to the success of an NFL team,” Brady said, “and I’m fortunate to play for the one that I feel is the best of all time. There’s really no way it can be (overstated), how important it is.”

If Brady is talking strictly Xs and Os, Belichick gets a huge advantage.

But if Brady is also taking emotion into account, considering how Dolphins players have responded to Campbell so far, maybe he could coach his team to an improbable victory.

–Miami’s defense has been a big-play crew for the last two weeks, and the pass rush, led by defensive end Cam Wake, has been among the featured attractions.

New England has allowed 16 sacks this season, tied for 16th-most in the NFL, so there’s hope the defensive line could get to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, one of the quickest decision-makers in the league.

Brady said his offensive line has done a good job.

“We see a lot of games and twists,” he said. “Everyone is obviously trying to get to the quarterback all the time, but we’ve been faced with a lot of challenges and I think those guys have really stepped up to it.”

Miami hopes it can get to Brady, but interim coach Dan Campbell realizes the games and twists might not be as successful as strong 1-on-1 play.

“There’s only so much you can do,” Campbell said of rushing Brady, “and everything has been done at one time or another, he’s seen all of it.

“At some point you just have to lineup and play football and ultimately that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to play our style of football and do our best to try to at least contain him or limit him.”

“They try to find a weakness. They exploit it and then they will repeat it over and over and over.”

–One thing Miami wants to focus on against New England on Thursday is playing a complete game. Two years ago, the Dolphins had a 17-3 halftime lead over the Patriots but lost, 27-17. Last year the Dolphins took a 14-13 deficit into halftime but eventually lost, 41-13.

New England, in recent years, has put pressure on Miami on offense, defense, special teams and coaching.

One slip, and it seems that’s all it takes for an avalanche of Patriots key plays and, eventually, a victory, especially at Gillette Stadium, where New England has a six-game winning streak over Miami.

The Dolphins know they need a complete game.

“They’re a good team,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “They’re coached well, they execute, they play well and you have to be on the top of your game for the entire game.

“If you play three good quarters and have one bad quarter, then nine times out of 10 they’re going to beat you. We have to play a full game from start to finish and execute the entire game.”

–Cornerback Brice McCain (knee) was limited in Tuesday’s practice and said he’s “questionable” for Thursday’s game. Look for rookie Bobby McCain to play the slot in the nickel defense is Brice McCain doesn’t play. Cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) was limited in Tuesday’s practice but it appears Grimes will be OK to play against New England.

Also cornerback Zack Bowman (shoulder) was limited in Tuesday’s practice but seems on pace to play Thursday. Bowman has been a key special teams player and with McCain ailing, may need to play from scrimmage.

–Center Mike Pouncey (hip) went through the full practice Tuesday and shouldn’t have any issues Thursday at New England. Pouncey was a key to the Dolphins handling Houston defensive tackle Vince Wilfork last week. He will be helping left guard Dallas Thomas and right guard Billy Turner pick up an anticipated flurry of blitzes against the Patriots.

–Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (ankle), who is developing into a key rotation player, went through the full practice Tuesday and should be fine for Thursday’s game at New England.


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