When the cheering is replaced by silence or even boos, the Miami Dolphins know they're in control.
This season, the Dolphins are 4-0 on the road, turning opposing stadiums into destinations as intimidating and forbidding as rose gardens and amusement parks.
"That feels good," Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. "That means you're doing something right. That means as a football team, we're on the right track when you can get the other team's crowd silenced a little bit. That adds a little incentive for you as a team."
Miami's unblemished record away from South Florida is tops in the NFL this season, surpassing the 3-0 marks shared by the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Conversely, the Ravens are 3-0 at home this season and have won six straight at M&T; Bank Stadium.
"It's got a kind of a championship atmosphere to it," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said in a moment of hyperbole. "Something's got to give. They're a great road team. We have to do our job at protecting our house."
The Dolphins, who are 0-3 at Sun Life Stadium, are the fifth team in NFL history to go undefeated on the road and winless at home through the first seven games of the season. But only the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals qualified for the playoffs with a 5-4 record in a strike-shortened season.
Miami's numbers seem to point up the disparity between the team's success on the road and its futility at home.
On the road, the Dolphins have made a commitment to running the football, gaining 539 yards on 135 carries for an average of 4.0 yards and scoring two touchdowns. At home, the offense has rushed just 65 times for 240 yards (3.7 average) and has yet to score a touchdown.
The team has also protected the ball better, surrendering just five turnovers compared to seven giveaways at home.
Miami has also been better defensively away from home. The unit has five more sacks (11 to six), has allowed fewer completions (53.2 percent versus 67.1), and has been stingier on third downs (29.8 percent to 45.9) on the road.
Brown said playing before hostile crowds has helped the Dolphins hone their concentration.
"You're not at home, so you have to focus a little bit more on the road," he said. "ÃƒÆ’Ã‚â€šÃƒâ€šÃ‚â€¦ We've played some great opponents at home, and I think that's been one of the things that has played a key role in that. But I think when we go on the road, you know what you're getting into, and Coach [Tony Sparano] does a great job of preparing us for the situation we're going into as far as the stadium the setup, the crowd. So I think we have everything that we need as far as being prepared when we go on the road."
Sparano, who has guided Miami to a 13-7 road record in less than three seasons, speculated that the insulated nature of traveling to opposing stadiums has also fortified the team psychologically.
"This football team enjoys being together, and I think when you get on the road a little bit, those Saturdays are occupied by a lot of football," Sparano said. "We have a lot of football guys on the team that enjoy talking it, watching it, any of those things. When you get them all together and you get them on the plane or you get them to the airport, they're talking football constantly. From my end, I try to occupy as much of that time as I can. At the other end, when we get to the hotel, it's kind of a full-time football environment, which has been good."
The Dolphins' success on the road has caught the attention of the Ravens, who are 11-9 in the regular season and the playoffs under coach John Harbaugh.
"For them to do what they have done, that's spectacular because it's hard to win on the road," running back Ray Rice said. "We always say, 'Take care of home.' It's kind of like a reversal for them. They're taking care of the road. ÃƒÆ’Ã‚â€šÃƒâ€šÃ‚â€¦ They're 4-0 on the road, which is hard to do. So we know what kind of team they are under pressure. But at the same time, if you look at how we play at home, we've been on the upside of winning at home."
"That's something that you can't see on tape because you watch the Pittsburgh game that they played a week ago and you would think that they won that game," Lewis said of Miami's one-point loss to the Steelers that ended with a controversial ruling. "It's not something you can see on tape. Maybe it's a mentality from inside. Maybe they're more comfortable when they leave their home. I don't know. Bottom line is, they're coming into Baltimore, so we have to defend what's ours and that's our home field."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.
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