FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When the Miami Dolphins played the New England Patriots in the season opener, Knowshon Moreno ran for 134 yards and Tom Brady was sacked four times.

Since then, Moreno gained just 14 yards on the ground before a knee injury ended his season after three games, and Brady has been sacked only 12 times.

Plenty has changed between Miami’s 33-20 win and the rematch Sunday against a New England team that has lost only two more games.

“It was so long ago, there are a number of players that will be involved in this game that weren’t even on the roster the last time that the two teams met on both sides,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said.

Different players and different results.

“We’re going to have to continue to build, continue to play better football,” Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “The more football we play the better we have to get if we want to be a special team. And it starts this week against the division opponent – an opponent that beat us earlier this year. … Hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”


Maybe the Patriots are not yet the “special” team Wilfork envisions, but they are certainly improved since the loss in Miami and a 2-2 overall start. New England has won 8 of 9. And while the whirl of changes have produced positive results there are also constants, such as the Patriots’ offensive approach.

“For the most part, it is the same style, same up-paced, fast-tempo consistent offense,” said Miami defensive end Cameron Wake, who sacked Brady twice in the opener. “These are big games when we come to face each other.”

This one’s big for both teams, and not for a revenge factor. The Patriots (10-3) would clinch the AFC East for the sixth straight season with a win or a tie. The Dolphins (7-6) need a win to have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

“It’s another game for us,” Wilfork said. “The important part is (this) being the next game and being a division opponent. They did beat us the first time around, but I don’t think the first game will have anything to do with the second game. I think the team that executes well will walk out with a ‘W.'”

“Any time another team beats you, you just want to play better than you did the first time,” Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “It’s a different time now. It’s a different part of the year.”

Running back LeGarrette Blount, who was just starting what turned out to be his brief stay in Pittsburgh on opening week, is very much a part of things now in New England. He, too, downplayed the revenge factor.


“No. They just want to go out there and beat them. They just want to go out here and win. No matter what happened in the beginning of the season, they just want to go out here and win the game – and that’s the mentality of everybody in the locker room right now.”

For Miami, it will be tough against a team that has won 34 straight home games against AFC opponents, is 6-0 at home this season and is an NFL-best 52-9 in December since 2000.

But the Dolphins have won their past two meetings with the Patriots, both at home.

“There has been a lot of football between then and now,” Miami QB Ryan Tannehill said.

In the opener, the Patriots led 20-10 at halftime before losing 33-20. In the fourth quarter, Brady completed only 6 of 20 passes for 31 yards.

“You end up watching all the games just because all of them can provide some insight. Certainly, that game can provide a lot of insight,” Brady said, “but our team is a little bit different now. There are going to be some new things that we do. I’m sure they’re going to have some new things.”


Two key players missed that game with suspensions, Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner and Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan.

Gronkowski was rusty then after offseason knee surgery, but has 10 touchdown catches this season. Miami rookie wide receiver Jarvis Landry had no catches in the opener, but leads NFL rookies with 63 now.

So on Sunday it will be the same teams, but different circumstances.

“We’ve obviously taken a look at the first game,” Miami Coach Joe Philbin said, “but, certainly, you pay a little bit more attention, when it’s the 14th game of the season, to the last four or five weeks.”

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