Tom Brady has one simple answer to why his New England Patriots have struggled in Miami.
"They play well and we don't," Brady said Friday.
He was smiling, but you know -- and he knows -- winning in Miami is one thing in a brilliant career that Brady hasn't been able to do consistently. Look at the numbers:
- Brady is 7-9 at Miami, where the Patriots have lost four of the last five years. He is 15-1 against the Dolphins at home.
- Brady has lost seven career games in December, five of them at Miami.
- Brady is 79-19 against the AFC East in the regular season, with 10 of the losses coming at the hands of the Dolphins, a team he has beaten 22 times.
"Regardless, none of that stuff matters," Brady said. "This week it's really this team against that team and we're going to have to play well. They play good at home, they're 5-1, they've got a good defense -- we've got a big challenge. Should be fun."
And the Patriots are favored to win this game, which would give them their 10th straight AFC East title, the 18th in 25 years under owner Robert Kraft. The division is consistently the most lopsided in football - and New England has dominated.
But not in the Florida sunshine.
"We've tried a bunch of different things over the years," Brady said of preparation for this annual visit, which has also included practicing indoors with the heat cranked up. "We've gone down there Thursday night and practiced Friday, gone down there Friday night after practice, stayed there Saturday. It's just really about playing good when it comes down to it; there's no magic formula."
This week, the Patriots, who have won eight of their last nine games, have been working in the New England cold after beating the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 on a drizzly day at Gillette Stadium.
"When you look at those stats, it is pretty interesting, the way some of those teams from the South come up and play, the teams from the North play in the South - there's got to be something to it," Brady said. "It just comes down to playing good football. We've had some great games down there, too. Hopefully this is a great game for us. But we have to go earn it."
He fondly recalled the overtime long pass he threw to Troy Brown to win the 2003 game, ending New England's five-game losing streak down there, remembering the celebration, and "flipping people off" on the bus leaving.
This week, they face a Miami team that is 5-1 at home, 1-5 on the road, and one that will be without its best defender. NFL interceptions leader Xavien Howard, who picked Brady twice down there last year, is injured.
"I think just playing down there has its challenges," Brady said. "Every team kind of has its challenges going down there. They play well at home. I think they use the climate as a benefit to them, just as we use our as a benefit to us."
Brady enters this game tied with Peyton Manning for the career lead with 579 career touchdown passes, counting playoffs. His 508 regular-season TD passes are tied with Brett Favre for third place.
A win Sunday would also give New England its 16th straight 10-win season. And then there's the division title.
"That would be pretty sweet," Brady said. "Obviously trying to win the division is a great step. This would really allow us to do that; they're going to really challenge us. It's going to be a physical game, they've been talking about that. We're prepared to just having the right mindset to go down there and play a real great, complementary game."