Patriots worried about Brian Flores' familiarity? Nope

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Early last season, the New England Patriots faced their former defensive playcaller, then-first-year Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, and struggled in a surprising Week 3 loss.

This week, the Patriots face a similar situation when they travel to face their former defensive playcaller who had replaced Patricia -- first-year Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

The coaching déjà vu was noted by Patriots captain Dont'a Hightower, who worked as closely with Patricia and Flores as anyone when they were together in New England.

"I was with Flo for seven years. He's a real good coach, and obviously he knows the problems that we had last year, and I'm sure he's going to [attack] those a lot like Matty P, who had a really good game plan," Hightower said Monday. "We're just going to have to prepare for a lot of things that we know can hurt us, or just acknowledging the fact he knows those things.

"But I'm sure [coaches] will have a great plan for us, and at the end of the day it will come down to us going out there and executing."

If coach Bill Belichick was looking for a way to keep his players from possibly overlooking the Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, CBS), this would be one way to do it -- using Flores' familiarity to keep their focus sharp.

Also, just as Miami looked overmatched in a 59-10 season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens, so too did Patricia's Lions in a 48-17 season-opening loss to the New York Jets in 2018.

But it doesn't sound like Belichick plans to go in that direction.

"I'm sure it's an interesting story to look at, but I really don't know," he said. "I think that's way overrated."

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has naturally seen a familiar-looking scheme to the Patriots' when studying the Dolphins' defense, relayed that his focus is less on the opposite sideline than it is his own.

"I know he was here, so that may give him a little bit of insight about specific people and the way we do things and all those things," McDaniels said of Flores. "But I think honestly at this point in time, the best thing for us to do is really not concern ourselves with all of the things that they may know or could know or what type of advantage is gained in that regard, and really to focus on the things we need to do to improve."

Reflecting on their win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, McDaniels highlighted better production in the running game (29 carries, 99 yards, 3.4 avg.) and red zone (no TDs in three trips) as two areas on his radar.

Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema, who worked directly under Flores in 2018, said Flores' familiarity with New England has not been a hot topic in coaching meetings this week.

"In this league, it's probably been the most eye-opening thing [to me] going into my second year -- you always have players, you always have coaches, you have a lot of crossover week-to-week of guys that used to be together," he said. "I know it's a lot to write about, but I think it's probably something that the outside world looks at a lot more than we do. ...

"Everybody has a lot of respect for Flo and what he was able to do during his time here. I have great respect for who he was when he was here, and obviously wish him the best of luck as he moves forward."