It’s no secret that the New England Patriots struggle to win games whenever they travel down to Maimi. Since 2013, the Patriots are just 1-4 when facing off against their AFC East rivals in the sunshine state. The Patriots typically have the better roster, but struggle to get the job done. Because of this, many are predicting a loss, or at least a narrow margin of victory. Basically, the masses are saying this has the makings of a New England Patriots trap game.
However, that won’t happen this time. The trap game narrative itself is overblown, to begin with, as most of those losses were due to a variety of case-specific issues. Additionally, the Patriots won’t overlook the Dolphins this time around, as they’ll be able to learn from last year’s eerily similar situation.
Why This Won’t Be A Trap Game
Even though the Patriots are 1-4 in their last five trips to Miami, only one should be counted as a trap game. In three of the four losses, the Patriots just went into Miami at the wrong time. Back in 2015, the Patriots were a broken shell of themselves. Brandon Bolden and a worn out Steven Jackson were the top running backs, Julian Edelman was out with a broken foot, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola were clearly limited, and literally the entire offensive line was injured. The Patriots essentially forfeited this game in order to ensure health entering the playoffs. Whether or not that was a good decision is up for debate, but that’s what happened.
Similarly, the 2013 Patriots were a walking MASH unit heading into Maimi. The squad lost Gronkowski to a season-ending ACL injury the week prior and had really no other weapon outside of Julian Edelman. Amendola was playing on a torn groin, and even Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were battling through their own respective injuries. Josh Boyce actually started that game. Josh Boyce!
While the Patriots were healthy in 2014’s season opener, that team didn’t know who they wanted to be. New England always comes out of the gate relatively slow, and 2014 was no exception. The Patriots were beaten in all three phases of the game, simply because they were still figuring out who they were. Jordan Devey started over Ryan Wendell and Bryan Stork, Kenbrell Thompkins played over Brandon LaFell, and Gronkowski was playing in his first game since his ACL injury and clearly wasn’t himself.
Basically, these three games shouldn’t count as trap games, simply because New England was not the better team. Unlike in these previous encounters, the 2018 Patriots travel to Miami at the peak strength. Josh Gordon is fully incorporated in the offense, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead are healthy, and the passing game is clicking on all cylinders.
The Only True “Trap Game”
Of course, none of this is to say the Patriots aren’t susceptible to a trap game. Last year, the Patriots went into Miami and lost a 27-20 game that was not nearly as close as the score suggested. New England was outplayed in every facet of the game, and the team looked dead on arrival. Rob Gronkowski was serving a one-game suspension, but that wasn’t the reason for this loss. Nobody had a good game, and it looked as though most of the players were looking ahead to a Week 15 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
History is repeating itself in an eerie manner in 2018. Just like last year, the Patriots are traveling into Miami prior to a Week 15 road trip to Pittsburgh. While some would argue that history tends to repeat itself, that’s not the case with the New England Patriots.
Nobody in the league is better at learning from their mistakes than New England. If some random blogger can notice the similarities in the schedule, then so can Bill Belichick. The greatest coach of his time won’t let the Patriots overlook their AFC East rival for a second-straight week, especially this year. The 2017 Patriots could afford to lose a game and still take home-field advantage, the 2018 Patriots do not have that luxury. The Patriots are in the running, but they’d basically need to win out to have any chance of getting it. Who knows if they’ll actually run the table, but if they lose in Miami, it won’t be due to lack of focus.
Last Word on Avoiding The Annual New England Patriots Trap Game
The New England Patriots normally struggle when traveling to Miami, but things will be better this time. Most of the previous losses are caused by bad injury luck or the team just not knowing who they are. Fortunately, the Patriots won’t have these issues this time around. The roster is the healthiest it’s been all season, and New England has a clear identity based on running the football and spreading around the ball in the passing game.
The only true trap game in Miami occurred last year in basically this exact circumstance. Just like this year, the Patriots faced Miami in Week 14 before traveling to Pittsburgh in Week 15. Back in 2017, New England was clearly overlooking Miami while worrying too much about the inevitable Week 15 clash.
Bill Belichick will not let this happen again. It’s rare for this coaching staff to make one mistake, and they never make two. The Patriots need every win they can get if they’re to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Belichick will have this team focused and ready to go on Sunday. For just the second time since 2012, look for New England to come out of Miami with a victory.
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