By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- How many times has Tom Brady faced Miami? Something like 18, right?
The Dolphins are an AFC East opponent, a rival, so there's volumes and volumes of history between these two teams. And the Patriots quarterback revels in it.
"It's always a tough place to play," he said Wednesday. "We've had our struggles down there, we've had some great wins. We play them at the beginning of the year, the end of the year. It always seems like a tough place to play. It's a division rival. They put a lot into the game, we put a lot into the game. It's going to be fun. It's a fun way to start the year."
Brady smiled in anticipation of Week 1. It's unsurprising he and his teammates are anxious to get back to the grind and shake off any lingering lockout talk.
"I think everybody put a lot of work in over the last six weeks to get to this point. We've moved on from the preseason and I think that getting here for a regular-season week has been a lot of fun for the guys. There's certainly a different urgency in the air. The guys are excited to watch a lot of film on the Dolphins and have a pretty good understanding of what they do well and the things we're going to try to take advantage of."
So how does one keep a long-term NFL relationship interesting? Fish the gauntlet out of the closet and throw it on the sands of South Beach. It's not the Patriot Way to bite when baited, but Miami has thrown out a line to the league and New England is the first challenger. Toward the end of August, third-year cornerback Vontae Davis beat his chest in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and say secondary partner Sean Smith and I are the best tandem in the league," Davis said.
When asked about the potency of the pair, Brady smiled, nodded, indulged.
"They're very good and I think we've played them plenty of times to understand that," he said. "Vonte's really a ballhawk. He's had some great interceptions against us. He's very talented, he has all the tools of a great player. Sean Smith's another . . . He's long, he's tall, he's physical. He covers well. For a big guy he moves very well. They do have two very good corners."
The challenge will be answered in earnest on the field. And Davis and Smith aren't the only dangers Brady and his teammates are wary of.
"Benny Sapp, who's in there in nickel situations, is another very good player, experienced player who's caused us some problems too," he said. "It's a dangerous group. They're experienced in the secondary. They've been playing together for a little while. They're very good, especially when the pass rush gets going.
"I think we experienced that last year when we were down there. They were revved up early and, thank god for some special teams plays, but offensively we didn't play as well as we would have liked. We're going to need to play a lot better down there."