FOXBORO - The Patriots already caught a glimpse of the Dolphins when they came to town just a couple of weeks ago, coming out of the game with a 35-17 win at home in Week 12. Now, they’re in for a whole new beast when they travel to Miami to play on the Monday Night Football stage.
Miami has notoriously been a tough place to play for Tom Brady and the Patriots, with Brady only holding a 7-8 record when he heads down to play in the warm weather. If that wasn’t enough to take the team’s confidence down a little, their last loss on the road also came in Miami almost two years ago.
“They're usually a good football team,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “The division's tough, they play really well at home. You saw that this past week when Denver goes down there. Miami's tough at home, and they come out with a 35-9 win where they just played well.”
Even with the familiarity of playing one team twice in three weeks, McCourty and the Patriots know that things won’t exactly be the same when they head on the road for the primetime matchup.
“Go over this like it’s a whole new week,” McCourty said. “Start from scratch, and we refuel the tank and get ready to go and get prepared the right way. We have a chance to really be prepared, watching games you've already watched, watching with a better idea because you've played them already.”
One thing that will surely be different will be the lack of Rob Gronkowski in the offense, who will serve his one-game suspension for his late hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White last week. With Gronkowski out, the Patriots know they’ll need their “next man up” mentality to kick in.
“You're talking about a guy who played at a high level and is a great player,” Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “Everyone knows that and feels the sense of urgency to step up and do their job that much better.”
Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan, who may make his return to the lineup in Miami after missing four games due to injury, had similar sentiments, but had confidence in his teammates to make up for Gronkowski’s absence.
“We have a lot of guys in this locker room more than capable of making a lot of plays,” Hogan said. “That's what's great about this offense. Obviously Gronk is a big part of our offense, but guys will step up.”
After Monday night’s battle, Brady will hope to have a .500 record for his time down in Miami, but he and his teammates will have to overcome a lot of challenges if they want that to happen.
Austin Bumpus is an intern in the Boston 25 Sports Department.
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