Hannable: Why you should be worried about this game vs. Dolphins

Ryan Hannable
December 04, 2018 - 11:23 pm

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

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Since 2013, the Patriots have a 32-14 (.696) record on the road, but during that time are only 1-4 (.200) in games played in Miami.

Without knowing anything, it would be assumed the Dolphins have been a really good team over the last five years, but that couldn’t be any further from reality. Miami has only had a winning record once, even finishing 6-10 last season.

“It’s been a challenging environment," Tom Brady said to Jim Gray on Westwood One Radio prior to Monday Night Football. "I think the climate plays some role and they always seem to play well when they play us down there. We are not going to get beat by the weather, we’re going to get beat by the Dolphins. That is what we realize. We’re going up against a good opponent that plays us very well at home. We play them very well at home. It is just one of those series where it is kind of like that.”

So, what gives — why do the Patriots have trouble in games played in South Florida?

Here’s a quick look at those five games.

Monday, Dec. 11, 2017: Dolphins 27, Patriots 20

The Patriots didn’t have Rob Gronkowski in this game (suspended) and that really hurt them. Tom Brady finished 24-for-43 passing for 233 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a quarterback rating for 59.5. Miami jumped out to a 6-0 lead and extended it to 27-10 in the third quarter and never looked back. The Patriots were never really in the game, as Miami outplayed them from the start and were able to frustrate Brady and the offense.

Sunday, Jan, 1, 2017: Patriots 35, Dolphins 14

Evidentially, the one time the Dolphins made the playoffs in the last five years, they were not able to beat the Patriots at home. This was the final game of the regular season and the Patriots rolled to cap off their 14-2 campaign. Brady was outstanding, going 25-for-33 passing for 276 yards and three touchdowns. New England jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first half and it was over from there.

Sunday, Jan 3, 2016: Dolphins 20, Patriots 10

The Steven Jackson game. In one of the weirdest games of the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots ran the ball 21 times to only five passes in the first half and fell behind 10-3 at the half. They weren’t able to mount a second half comeback, ending the 2015 regular season on a losing note. In an effort to get the running game going for the playoffs, Jackson ran the ball 14 times for just 35 yards, which was a major red flag that he wasn’t going to be able to do much in the playoffs. It almost seemed like the Patriots expected the Dolphins barely to show up so they could work on their ground game, but that was far from what actually happened.

Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014: Dolphins 33, Patriots 20

This was a bad Week 1 loss for the Patriots, as they led 20-10 at halftime, but Miami outscored them 23-0 in the second half to come away with a win. The Patriots committed nine penalties for 100 yards, which certainly didn’t help and Brady was forced to throw the ball 56 times. He was sacked four times and finished with a 69.7 passer rating.

Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20

This was a great back-and-forth game with the Dolphins scoring a touchdown with 1:15 left to come away with the win. Brady once again threw the ball a ton — 55 times to be exact -- and it was tough going without Gronkowski. It was all Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as of the 55 pass attempts, 33 of them went to those two players. Edelman finished with 13 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, while Amendola had 10 catches for 131 yards. Ryan Tannehill had a nice day for the Dolphins throwing for 312 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

Looking at these games, particularly the losses, there should be a lot of concern for the Patriots this week. Three of the four occurred in December when the Dolphins weren’t really playing that great, which is the case again this year as while they are 6-6, they started the year 3-0. Even with a win last week over the Jets, they aren’t trending in the right direction.

The Patriots offense has been the major issue in Miami, as in the losses the Patriots never have scored more than 20 points.

This feeds into things with this year’s matchup. 

The Dolphins are a much better team at home than they are on the road, while it’s the same for the Patriots. Miami is 5-1 at home, while the Patriots have had all three of their losses come on the road. New England is also averaging 33.5 points in its home games to just 21.7 in its road games. It also should be noted when the Patriots scored 38 points in Chicago it got two special teams touchdowns and when they scored 25 points in Buffalo there was a defensive touchdown. 

New England’s offense has struggled on the road this year and that does not bode well given the history with the Dolphins.

“I’m sure it'll be tough against Miami, like it always is,” Belichick said on a conference call Tuesday. “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.”

The Patriots were able to earn a statement win by beating a good Vikings team last Sunday at home, but even though this is a lesser opponent, given their past issues in Miami and road struggles this year, beating the Dolphins might be an even bigger win.

Related: Josh McDaniels explains why Josh Gordon didn't get ball early vs. Vikings

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