New England heads to Miami Monday night for a huge AFC East showdown as each 2-1 team looks to keep pace with the division leading 3-1 Jets.
But Patriots fans cannot feel good about their chances, considering the franchise's incredible history of frustration in Miami.
Whether playing at the old Orange Bowl with Flipper frolicking in the end zone, or at Pro Player Stadium, Joe Robbie Stadium, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, or at whatever name they slap upon the home of the Dolphins, you can rest assured that the Patriots will struggle when they hit South Florida.
New England has dominated the AFC East for a decade. Yet the team is just 39-50 all time vs. Dolphins – and a truly incredible 11-33 in games played in Miami.
Those are amazing numbers, especially when you consider that, if you had to rank the history of each team in each division, you'd probably have to pick the Patriots the top franchise in the history of the AFC East.
Oh, sure, the Dolphins were consistent contenders from the early 1970 until the end of the 1990s. And it's true that the Boston/New England franchise suffered something of an inglorious history from 1960 until 2000.
But at the end of the day the New England is in the midst of a stretch in which it has enjoyed or shared the best mark of any AFC East team for an all-time NFL record nine straight seasons, and the franchise has enjoyed as many Super Bowl titles as the other three members of the quartet combined (three):
With all that said, the Patriots have always struggled badly against Miami, and especially in Miami.
New England has dominated the Bills – 60-40-1 (including playoffs) all-time vs. Buffalo
New England has gone toe to toe with the Jets – 50-51-1 (including playoffs) all-time vs. New York
New England has been embarrassed by the Dolphins – 39-50 (including playoffs) all-time vs. Miami
And, as noted, the Patriots are 11-33 all time in Miami.
The (then Boston) Patriots won the very first meeting between the two clubs, when they beat the expansion Dolphins 20-14 in 1966. But success since then has been few and far between. In fact, the Dolphins have handed the Patriots some shocking defeats along the way.
After that 1966 win over the expansion 'Fins, the Patriots did not win another regular-season game in Miami until 1986. That's 20 years later for those of you keeping score at home.
The lone anomaly in between was New England's shocking 31-14 win at Miami in the 1985 AFC championship game, the biggest victory in Patriots franchise history before their win over St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Regardless, that's a rare single taste of success in more than two decades of play in one city. Some of the beatings have been truly horrific, too. The undefeated 1972 Dolphins, for example, eked out quite a few tight, hard-fought victories that year. But they reserved the most dominating performance for the day that New England came to town: Miami won, 52-0. (The Patriots were hardly more competitive in the rematch later that year in Foxboro: the Dolphins won, 37-21.)
The Patriots have dominated the 2000s, while the Dolphins suffered through the worst decade in franchise history. But even then, the Patriots have often been humbled in South Florida. Here are some of the highlights for Miami and lowlights for New England over the past decade: a decade that, by all accounts, should have been dominated by the Patriots.
2000: Welcome to Miami, Bill
The Bill Belichick Era began in Miami just like almost every other New England coach's era in Miami: with a frustrating loss. Belichick's Patriots fell to 0-4 on a day in which they couldn't run (56 yards), couldn't pass (16 of 33, 161 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) and couldn't find the end zone (10-3 loss).
2001: This Brady kid sucks
The Patriots would end the year with their first Super Bowl championship. But they'd begin the year with a 1-3 record, lowlighted by 30-10 Week 4 loss in Miami, in Tom Brady's second career start. The young quarterback passed for just 86 yards, suffered four sacks, and failed to lead the Patriots to a single second-half point. It was New England's second largest margin of defeat in a three-year stretch from the end of 2000 to start of 2003, and it looked like the 3-1 Dolphins would run away with the division.
2002: Can't do nothing in Miami
The Patriots opened their first title defense with three straight impressive wins over the Steelers, Jets and Chiefs and look destined for success. But the team fell to 3-2 with a demoralizing 26-13 loss at Miami and never recovered. The defending champs rushed for just 37 yards, while Tom Brady has his typical day in South Florida (two picks).
2003: It's never easy for New England
The 2003 Patriots went 17-2 and won the Super Bowl, while the Dolphins went 10-6 and missed the playoffs. But the Patriots still needed a blocked Olindo Mare field goal (Richard Seymour) at the end of regulation, then another Mare miss to overtime, before an 82-yard TD pass from Brady to Troy Brown allowed the Patriots to escape Miami with an unexpectedly difficult victory. The Patriots rushed for just 59 yards.
2004: Primetime shocker
The Patriots were marching toward their second straight Super Bowl title. And they marched into Miami with an unbelievable 27-1 record in their past 28 games, that had included a record 21 straight wins at one point. They were an impressive 12-1 and big favorites over a terrible Dolphins team that was just 2-11.
But Brady had one of the biggest meltdowns of his career (four INT), unknown Miami return man Wes Welker had a career day (seven returns for 226 yards) and the Dolphins shocked the Patriots on Monday Night Football, 29-28. It was the first time in history that a club had 10 more wins than their opponent and lost.
2006: Blanked in Miami
The 2006 Patriots went 12-4 and were one play away from capturing another AFC title. But they were pathetic in Miami, suffering a 21-0 loss. It's one of only two shutouts the Patriots have suffered in the Brady Era.
2009: A portent of things to come
The 7-4 Patriots were poised for a big win over the 5-6 Dolphins in Miami and held a cool 21-10 lead in the third quarter. But New England fell apart in Miami, as they so often do: the Dolphins scored 12 unanswered points to escape send the Patriots home 22-21 losers.
It proved a portent of things to come, as the Patriots have proven repeatedly in games since then that they can't close out opponents in the second half.