For the better part of my entire life, Miami in a Patriots football context has been like a Middle Eastern war zone but unlike Frank Drebin, the Pats should have no plans to vacation in Beirut.
After all, vacation in January is for losers and the Patriots are back where they belong this month with business to attend to this postseason. First, however, a Week 18 matchup in rival Miami, presents an important opportunity to right some past wrongs.
History for the Patriots in Miami even in the best of times, has been spotty and inconsistent at best. Winning performances in South Beach from the 70’s right through the glory days of Brady and Belichick can be counted one hand and maybe a couple of extra stubby fingers.
I grew up amidst a 16-game losing streak for the Patriots in Miami that spanned more than a decade and a half of disappointment; the aura of which took on a ‘Red Soxian’ type of jinxy feel in its own right. The only thing that staved off the feeling that the Pats could never correct its course in Miami was the fact that the Pats enjoyed their own semi-dominance of Miami up here in Foxboro during that same period of time; winning 11 of their 16 games at Schaefer and later Sullivan Stadium.
My favorite game ever in Miami was the 1985 AFC Championship in the previously and long since hexed Miami Orange Bowl. As former linebacker and Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Nelson once said about that game during the early days of WEEI, “we knew we were going to win and so did they.” Awesome. Despite the 16-game South Beach losing streak, Pats fans felt it too as just weeks prior on Monday Night Football the Pats lost one they could have and should have won in the Orange Bowl. It finally felt different. The result in the AFC Championship Game was a Patriots laugher, a trip to Super XX and a poster that lived on my bedroom wall of Don “The Sackman” Blackmon standing over a flattened, likely concussed and certainly disheartened Dan Marino. I can see that picture clear as daylight in my mind, I’m smiling right now.
From there the Pats went on to win their next three versus the Dolphins in their sunny Florida house and thoughts of Miami being a house of horrors for the Patriots had finally faded away.
Then the 90’s came.
Miami wasn’t great during the latter stages of Marino’s career but the Patriots were mired in complete darkness before Parcells, Kraft and Bledsoe first led the organization towards the path to NFL light. It wasn’t a curse that caused the Pats to lose their first five games in Miami during that decade, it was because they were utterly pathetic, particularly before 1994.
That was then and this is now but even during the last two decades of Patriots dominance, neither the feeling of tension nor the ghoulish events that happen when the Patriots play the Dolphins in Miami has ever cooled off. Tom Brady, the greatest of all time has had some of the worst performances of his Hall of Fame career in Miami along with a below .500 career record of 9-10. Nine and 10!
For the Brady/Belichick New England Patriots really? To quote Daffy Duck “Something screwy is going on.”
If the 50-year or even the 20-year Patriots history in this place doesn’t distress you then maybe the most recent history will; the Patriots have won just one of their last six games played in Miami during the months of December and January.
So where does that leave us for this weekend? Well, I’d say Sunday is a business day. Time to get to business and dispose of the supposed ghouls, ghosts, goblins and cosmic nonsense that has haunted these Patriots in the sunny shores of Miami for these many years. You see, we are embarking on a new era now, the Mac Jones era and this pattern of poor play and prolonged fluky losing streaks in Miami needs to be eradicated right now at the outset of Mac Jones’ maiden voyage to South Beach. Kill the curse before it restarts again. Right now.
This is the time. Miami has been eliminated and has nothing but pride to play for. The Patriots are in the playoffs, need to keep the positive momentum gained last week and still have a shot at the AFC East Division title. They should also have revenge on the mind for gifting the Dolphins a win on their home turf at Foxboro this past September.
The Miami curse plagued Jim Plunkett, Steve Grogan, Drew Bledsoe, a bunch of stiffs in between and even the greatest of them all, Tom Brady. Take care of business this weekend and this ‘thing’ in Miami may no longer be a thing. Or to paraphrase the great Ace Ventura who also once took care of business in Miami: “Exorcise the demon!”