By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots appear to be elevating themselves like they typically do in December. But can they keep that momentum rolling into Miami?
For a wide range of reasons over Tom Brady's superlative 18-year run, he has often struggled on the road against the Dolphins. Brady is 7-9 in his career down there. Thanks to a handful of epic performances, he's ended up with a good-but-not-great 98.3 passer rating.
For the most part, though, Miami has been tough sledding for Brady and, by extension, the Patriots offense. In his 16 career games at Miami, Brady has posted a passer rating of 77.9 or lower in nine of them. In his last five, that number has been 82.1 and the Patriots are 1-4 in those games.
Despite the Patriots' typical December/January dominance, four of Brady's last five games in Miami have been in those months. Whatever reason you want to point to, Miami is apparently immune to the Patriots' usual excellence at the end of the regular season.
The offensive issues on the road compared to home have been magnified a bit in 2018. The group has averaged 33.5 points per game at home this season, but only 18.2 away from Gillette Stadium. The last time out in Miami was one of the uglier start-to-finish performances ever seen in the Brady-Belichick era in a 27-20 loss on Monday Night Football. That game was not as competitive as the final score indicated.
What gives, Bill?
"I'm sure it'll be tough against Miami, like it always is," said Belichick during his Tuesday conference call. "Wherever we play them, it's hard. They did a great job against us down there last year in the second game. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
Brady is certainly going to have to field some questions about the trouble he's frequently faced down in Miami. He told Westwood One's Jim Gray on Monday that Miami has historically been a "challenging environment" and admits that the weather "plays some role" - although it's hard to blame the climate for their nighttime loss last year.
It's hard to feel confident that the offensive issues will change in Miami this year, considering how poorly the offense has played on the road for the most part. At best, they've been inconsistent from drive-to-drive, which even continued on Sunday against the Vikings in Foxboro.
That's not to say that a win is impossible. Even if the offense continues to struggle, they could win with strong performances on defense and special teams, like they did in Chicago and Buffalo. The defense knows how important it is for the Patriots to play better than they have on the road and keep cranking out the W's.
"We hope so," said Trey Flowers on Sunday, when asked if they can take their home dominance to Miami this weekend. "Any time you go in December and go on the road, it's always going to be tough. We know it. We've just got to prepare well and get the victory."
It's only going to get more important that the Patriots keep notching victories, especially as the Texans and Chargers continue to win and threaten them for one of the top-2 seeds in the AFC. The hope is that they continue to elevate themselves in a historically tough spot - and despite the treacherous nature of Miami, they usually do elevate this time of year regardless.
"I think a lot of the guys understand the urgency, just being able to amp up preparation and understand that now it's time for real football," said Flowers. "A lot of guys understand the urgency [of] coming together and working hard."
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].