Miami Dolphins

With odds stacked against his Dolphins, Dan Campbell faces greatest challenge yet

Interim coach Dan Campbell has beaten the Titans and Texans in convincing fashion, but Thursday night his Dolphins will try to do what most fail to — beat the Patriots in their stadium.
Interim coach Dan Campbell has beaten the Titans and Texans in convincing fashion, but Thursday night his Dolphins will try to do what most fail to — beat the Patriots in their stadium. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The new conventional wisdom — that there isn’t anything harder to do in the NFL than winning a road Thursday night game — isn’t entirely true.

It’s difficult, for sure. But far from impossible.

Since 2006, home teams have won 62 percent of Thursday night games, according to STATS LLC. By way of comparison, NFL home teams in general win around 58 percent of the time.

So allow us this revision: Probably the hardest thing to do in football is to win at Gillette Stadium on a short week. Tom Brady is 8-0 as a starter on Thursdays, 12-1 all-time against the Dolphins at home and 81-14 against everyone else.

That’s why Cameron Wake loaded 15 bags of ice into his bathtub Sunday night, and dove in.

And why Ryan Tannehill was at work before dawn this week. And why Bill Lazor began preparing for New England after he kissed his kids good night on Sunday — and probably hasn’t stopped since.

Does defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo wish he had more than three days to prepare for Brady?

“You wish you had a month,” he said.

But barring an act of God, the Patriots and Dolphins will line up for the 100th time just before 8:30 on Thursday night.

Dan Campbell already has momentum and a deep reservoir of goodwill. But if he somehow wins in his first trip to Foxborough, Massachusetts, there’ll be no stopping the runaway hype train.

Not even Don Shula won his first three games as Dolphins coach; the only coach in team history who did was Jimmy Johnson (1996).

“When you’re going into play New England on a Thursday night, you don’t have to be worried about being grounded,” Campbell said. “We know we’ve got our hands full. … We know it’s not going to be easy and overconfident is the last thing we are going to be doing when we walk in Thursday.”

Humility and health — the Dolphins appear to have both. Even with the short week, they should be at full strength.

Cornerback Brice McCain, who missed the Texans game with a knee injury, prepared all week as if he will start Thursday. The Dolphins officially listed McCain as questionable on the team’s final injury report.

No other Dolphins player was worse than probable.

Still, the human body is not built to play two NFL games in five days. That’s why Wake celebrated the Dolphins’ win over the Texans by spending 20 minutes in an icy tub at his home.

“I don’t want to give away all of my secrets, but you have to do whatever [to be] ready for the next game,” said Wake, whose six sacks lead the team.

If the Dolphins are to have any chance against Brady, they need Wake and Ndamukong Suh to continue to feast. After a slow start to the season, both are playing free and fast under Anarumo, and their teammates have followed their lead. In just two weeks, the Dolphins have gone from 27th in yards-per-play allowed to 12th and have jumped five spots in scoring defense.

But they’ve yet to face a team like the Patriots and a quarterback like Brady. New England is 6-0 for the third time since 2003.

While Brady rarely loses to the Dolphins, he hasn’t played particularly well against Miami (3-3) in recent years.

Since 2012, Brady has completed only 58.6 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of just 82.7 — both well below his career averages.

Granted, he’s also currently one of the front-runners in the MVP race and has thrown just one interception in 251 passing attempts this season.

Tannehill has never won at Gillette Stadium, but he is one of the league’s hottest quarterbacks with an absurd passer rating of 136.5 since the coaching change.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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