By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Much of the talk surrounding the Patriots’ latest quest for a fifth Super Bowl championship has been about home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They have a great chance at locking that up in 2016, which they can do by simply winning on Sunday on the road against the Miami Dolphins.
But while a win in Miami would secure home-field for the Pats, it would also improve their 2016 road record to a perfect 8-0. That would make them just the seventh team in NFL history with a perfect road record, putting them in elite company with yet another impressive feat in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty was asked about the potential of a perfect road record on Wednesday. He downplayed the idea of going 8-0 on the road, especially since they have to pull it off against the 10-5 Dolphins in Miami, where Tom Brady is just 6-8 in his career.
“Overall [8-0 on the road] will be a great accomplishment, but I think for us this is a really tough test,” said McCourty. “We haven’t won down there in three years so it’s even bigger than just this year. It’s just trying to go down there and play well. Not winning just shows we just haven’t played well down there.”
You may be wondering whether there’s any significance to achieving an 8-0 record on the road, besides the rarified air. A perfect road record wouldn’t necessarily matter much to a team’s playoff success, especially when most of those teams play their playoff games at home … except that four of the six teams to go 8-0 on the road have gone on to play in the Super Bowl and two have won it all.
Amazingly, three of the teams to go 8-0 on the road come from the Joe Montana-era San Francisco 49ers, who won an NFL-record 18 straight road games from 1988-90. The 1984 and 1989 incarnations of the 49ers each won the Super Bowl those respective seasons – including their historic 55-10 drubbing of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, which remains the biggest margin of victory in Super Bowl history. The 1990 49ers went 8-0 on the road and 14-2 in the regular season but, interestingly enough, lost in the NFC Championship Game to … the New York Giants, whose Belichick-coached defense held Montana to just 13 points and went on to win Super Bowl XXV in the infamous “Wide Right” game.
Another 8-0 road team to play in the Super Bowl will be familiar to Patriots fans: the 2001 St. Louis Rams, who beat the Patriots 24-17 in Foxboro only to lose the rematch in Super Bowl XXXVI. The 2014 Dallas Cowboys were 8-0 on the road, but ironically fizzled out in the divisional playoff on the road against the Green Bay Packers. And, of course, there’s the 2007 Team That Shall Not Be Named.
Ultimately, all of these aforementioned teams have little-to-no relation to the 2016 Patriots, beyond (potentially) their win totals. But a perfect road record is, ostensibly, an indicator of a team’s mental toughness and ability to win in any environment. If you consider the Conference Championship success of 8-0 road teams a legitimate corollary, then you can consider the Patriots’ chances of getting to Super Bowl LI an even safer bet than it already was.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.