Dolphins at Patriots | 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Inhospitable environment awaits Miami Dolphins and their ills


The Dolphins will seek a cure for all that ails them Sunday in a building that has caused them — and most other visiting teams — little else but pain.

Miami Dolphins' Mike Wallace catches a first quarter pass as they play the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 20, 2013.
Miami Dolphins' Mike Wallace catches a first quarter pass as they play the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 20, 2013.

Patriots at home

The Patriots have the best home record since their new stadium opened in 2002 (including playoffs):

Team W L T Pct.
New England86 18 0 .827
Baltimore 7223 0 .758
Indianapolis 75 26 0 .743
Pittsburgh 70 28 1 .712
Green Bay 68 30 0 .694
Seattle 67 30 0 .690
San Diego 62 34 0 .646
New Orleans 56 39 0 .589
Philadelphia 57420 .576

Pats dominate AFC East

The Patriots 45 games over .500 since the start of the 2001 season within the AFC East:

Team W L T Pct. Div. Titles
New England 61 160 .792 10
New York Jets 38 39 0 .494 1
Miami 31 44 0 .413 1
Buffalo 24 530 .312 0

In five professional seasons, Mike Wallace has played in more marquee football games than all of his fellow Dolphins receivers combined.

He has appeared in four playoff games, including Super Bowl 45.

So the former Steelers speedster must have played in Foxborough, Mass., at least once before, right?

When asked recently how many times he has been a visitor at Gillette Stadium, Wallace curled his fingers to his thumb.

His nonverbal answer: Zero.

Which means Wallace has as many career wins in New England as many of his current teammates — who visit Foxborough every season.

Four days before Halloween, the slumping Dolphins (3-3) return to their personal house of horrors, taking on the Patriots (5-2) on Sunday in their home park.

Miami has lost nine of 11 games in New England since Gillette opened in 2002, including a 28-0 pasting in the 2012 finale. The last time the Dolphins got a road win against the Patriots (2008), Ryan Tannehill was a freshman receiver at Texas A&M.

Overall, the Patriots have beaten the Dolphins six consecutive times, and won eight of the past 10 meetings.

“We know it’s going to be tough to win,” Wallace said. “We have to be ready to play. Everybody knows we have to have a sense of urgency.”

It will take more than that. Better teams have gone there, played well, and lost — like the Saints this season.

Regardless of which team they play, the Patriots are nearly unbeatable at home. Since 2010, they are 24-3 at home in the regular season.

The Pats don’t just beat teams at home. They bludgeon them. Their points differential at Gillette Stadium is the best in football over the past 12 years.

For sure, the atmosphere plays a role. The Patriots have great fan support, selling out each of their last 210 preseason, regular-season and postseason games. Foghorns and musket shots add to the ambiance.

The wind and cold are factors, too — so much so that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin cranked up the air conditioning in the the team’s practice bubble this week to shock his players’ systems. (Sunday’s forecast is for temperatures in the low 50s at kickoff.)

But none of that explains why the Patriots are all but unbeatable at home, according to Richie Incognito.

The real reason: “Bill Belichick and Tom Brady,” Incognito said.

The Patriots’ future Hall of Famers have reached five Super Bowls together — winning three — and again have the Patriots atop the AFC East.

Incognito’s luck has been particularly bad against the Patriots. He hasn’t beaten them anywhere — home or on the road — in his nine-year NFL career.

“It’s something I’m hungry for,” Incognito said.

Which is why he tried to set the week’s tone Tuesday, telling everyone who would listen that, “we’ve got to make up our minds early in the week to beat these guys.”

That’s what it took for Dannell Ellerbe and his Ravens last January, when they pummeled the Patriots in the AFC title game en route to the world championship.

Ellerbe doesn’t have the same Foxborough scars as many of his new Dolphins teammates, so he blanched at the idea that it’s the toughest place to play in the NFL.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Ellerbe said. “It’s a hard place to play. … When you’re winning, your fans are going to show up. [But] it was hard to win up there in Denver, too. I couldn’t pick and choose.”

The Ravens’ road wins against the Broncos and Patriots last season proved that although home-field advantage is a big thing, it’s not the only thing.

But to beat playoff-caliber teams at home, a near-perfect effort is needed. The Dolphins, losers of three in a row, haven’t been close to that all season.

With two games against 2012 playoff teams in the next five days (Cincinnati comes to town Thursday), that has to change immediately.

If not, a three-game losing streak could easily swell to five, and a once-promising season could be lost.

“It’s not way too early,” Wallace said when asked if Sunday presents a must-win situation, “but I think it’s a little early, just because of our division and how everybody’s playing.

“If we want to win, we have to win. … You need to look at it as a must-win.”

The Dolphins are certainly due.

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