Tom Brady is 7-9 when playing on the road against the Miami Dolphins.
Let that statistic sink in: Brady, the 13-time Pro Bowl quarterback who has led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl titles, winning MVP honors in four of those ultimate games, has lost more than he has won at the Dolphins.
The Patriots have no trouble winning at home against the Dolphins, including 38-7 earlier this season. But, whether it’s the humid weather or the distractions of South Beach, the Patriots have lost four of their past five games at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’s a big challenge, winning down there,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told The Boston Herald. “They play extremely well at home. We haven’t played well down there.”
Miami won 27-20 last year at home against the Patriots. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard intercepted Brady twice, and the Patriots went 0-for-11 on third down.
On Sunday, the Patriots (9-3) can clinch their NFL-record 10th straight division title with a tie or a win. Miami (6-6) is still alive in the battle for a playoff berth, although the Dolphins are a bit of a long shot.
New England is a seven-point favorite on Sunday, and Miami’s monumental challenge of trying to knock off the Patriots just got significantly more difficult.
Howard, a Pro Bowl candidate who leads the NFL with seven interceptions — including four in the past two weeks — won’t play due to injury. He hurt his knee during his second interception in last week’s Dolphins win over the Buffalo Bills. But Howard, perhaps due to adrenaline, missed just one play and finished the game.
“(Howard) is one of our best players if not our best player on defense,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “If he can’t go, we have to make some adjustments.”
That will put rookie first-rounder Minkah Fitzpatrick — who intercepted Brady in the first meeting of the season — into the starting lineup. Howard, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week, is expected to return this season, Gase said.
Brady (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle, back) were limited in practice on Wednesday, but both Patriots stars were removed from the report by Thursday.
Even so, the Patriots are wary of the Dolphins defense, which ranks second in the NFL with 19 interceptions.
“There’s a lot to deal with,” McDaniels said. “They have an aggressive, penetrating front, and they mix their calls and coverages quite a bit.”
Offensively, the Dolphins got quarterback Ryan Tannehill back from the injury list in last week’s win over the Buffalo Bills. He had missed five games due to an injured throwing shoulder.
The Dolphins, who are 5-1 at home this season, have faced numerous injuries, especially at wide receiver, where they have lost two of their biggest playmakers: Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant.
But wide receiver Danny Amendola, who missed last week’s game due to a knee injury, is expected to play against his former team, the Patriots. Amendola, who has played 11 games this season, leads the Dolphins in catches (48) and yards (469). He is officially listed as questionable.
“I think,” Gase said, “he wants to play in this game as badly as anyone.”
—Field Level Media