Tom Brady and the Patriots have apparently gotten over any sort of early-season issues they’ve had with playing the Dolphins in Miami. (Getty Images)
In the spring, veteran safety Devin McCourty joked about building a “big sauna” at Gillette Stadium to try and replicate the sweaty conditions they’ll face when they head south for the regular season opener Sunday against the Dolphins.
But in truth, the early-season Florida weather doesn’t vex the Patriots like it once did — New England has won its last four early-season meetings in Miami, coming away with victories in September/October games in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call with the media that he actually prefers playing in South Florida early in the season because it’s easy to prepare, especially coming off some of the occasionally steamy August days in training camp.
“Personally, I would rather play in a warm climate at the beginning of the year than at the end of the year, because at least we’ve been practicing in it,” he said.
“We’ve had some hot days here at the beginning of the season,” Belichick added. “I think you can get a hot day pretty much anywhere. It really comes back to the conditioning of your team. Whether it’s hot or not, it’s the same for both teams and the player’s conditioning level and his ability to perform at a high level is going to be reflected later in the game based on his physical conditioning.”
It’s easy to forget now, but not so long ago, the Patriots had serious early-season struggles when faced with the prospect of playing in Miami in August and September. The Dolphins used to be without peer when it came to playing in the South Florida heat early in the season ‘ from 1994 to 2002 Miami won 16 consecutive home games in August and September.
In that same stretch, several former Patriots confessed to being befuddled about how to beat the warm temps, and admitted that the whole thing got in their heads. (On one occasion, the Patriots tried to tape garbage bags over the air conditioning systems in the locker room for fear of getting too comfortable at halftime.)
It’s never easy in Miami ‘ the Patriots stumbled late in the 2009 and 2013 seasons against the Dolphins in South Florida ‘ but it appears as though the Patriots are over any early-season phobias with the Miami heat.
“I don’t think this game is going to be decided on the heat or the weather, just like I don’t think the ones at the end of the year are decided by the cold,” Belichick said. “It’s a little bit of a factor in the game, but we’re playing a good football team. If we play well, we’ll be competitive and we’ll have a chance. If we don’t play well, it won’t make a difference what the conditions are, we’ll be in a lot of trouble. That’s where most of the emphasis is going to be this week, and where it should be.”