TAMPA — Most of last weekend’s Bucs-Patriots trappings never found their way out of Foxborough.
The emotional homecoming, marvel versus mentor story line, statistical immortality — the Bucs left them behind like a vapor trail of poignance as their charter jet headed southward, toward the next challenge.
“They all count the same,” Tom Brady said Thursday. “It doesn’t matter what happened last week, we’ve got to put everything into it this week.”
In a league that doesn’t suffer letdowns (see Cardinals 37, Rams 20), Brady’s words are as profound as they are trite. Seems the Dolphins (1-3) will arrive in town packing a subplot very familiar to the one that gave Brady fits last Sunday.
For the second week in a row, he’ll be facing a head coach who knows his every nuance.
Dolphins third-year coach Brian Flores spent more than a decade (2008-2018) with Brady and the Patriots, the last eight seasons as a defensive coach. His defensive coordinator, Josh Boyer, spent 13 seasons (2006-2018) on Bill Belichick’s staff, most as a secondary coach.
“Thousands of practices, probably 1,500 practices,” Brady said of his familiarity with Flores.
“It’s a lot over a long period of time, and ‘Flo’ does a great job. He’s a great football coach. He’s coached different positions on the defensive side of the ball, so I think he has a great understanding.’'
Naturally, the admiration is mutual.
“There’s no confusing him,” Flores said. “He’s seen everything, so ... I could sit here and say, ‘Yeah, you can do this and do that,’ but there’s no confusing the guy.”
Miami arrives at Raymond James Stadium 24th in the league in total defense (388.3 yards per game) and 25th in scoring defense (27.3 ppg), but the numbers bely the turnaround Flores and Boyer have orchestrated in South Florida. The Dolphins allowed the fifth-fewest points in the NFL (21.1 per game) last season, tying for the NFL lead with 18 interceptions. Cornerback Xavien Howard had an NFL-high 10.
Yet they acted aggressively in the offseason to upgrade the secondary, signing free agents Jason McCourty and Justin Coleman, and drafting Oregon safety Jevon Holland in the second round.
“I think this secondary is a lot better than the one we just played,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said.
“They spent a lot of money in the secondary. I think Coach Flores has done a heck of job with that defense and it’s a very similar defense.”
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Eerily similar, as it pertains to Brady.
Fifteen weeks after humiliating Flores’ team, 43-0, in Week Two of the 2019 season, Brady faced the Dolphins again in his final regular-season game at Gillette Stadium. On a modest statistical day (16-of-29, 221 yards), he threw a second-quarter pick-six (to Eric Rowe) as Miami built an early 10-point lead.
Brady rallied the Patriots late, but former Buc Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 5-yard scoring pass to Mike Gesicki with 24 seconds remaining sealed a 27-24 Dolphins win that sent New England to the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs.
“They have really good pressures, a variety of fronts. They do a good job disguising coverages and they try to throw the quarterback off a bit,” Brady said.
“I’ve just been studying them all week and going back in the last year. ... Obviously I’ve got a lot of familiarity with things they’ve done in the past, but I’ve tried to be prepared for as much as I can.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow TBTimes_Bulls
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