Dolphins have fared surprisingly well out west

DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins refused to let a Friday night flight alter their pregame preparation.

“Instead of hanging out at home, we’ll be hanging out on the plane,” defensive end Cameron Wake said a couple of hours before the Dolphins departed for San Francisco.

“We’ll watch some film together, probably take some naps and get something to eat. Same routine, we’ll just be doing it 30,000 feet in the air.”

The Dolphins, who usually travel Saturday for road games, left a day early to play the 49ers (8-3-1) at Candlestick Park on Sunday.

Miami (5-7) has lost four of its last five games following a three-game winning streak. NFC West-leading San Francisco is coming off an overtime loss at St. Louis last week.

The Dolphins lead the overall series with San Francisco 6-5, which includes the 49ers’ victory in Super Bowl XIX. Miami has won the last two meetings, 24-17 in 2004 in San Francisco and 14-9 at home in 2008.

By beating Seattle at Sun Life Stadium on Nov. 25, Miami has won seven straight and 12 of 13 at home against West Coast teams since ’97.

During the same time frame, the Dolphins have been West Coast road warriors as well. They are a combined 10-4 when visiting Seattle, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco.

“It’s definitely a little bit different,” coach Joe Philbin said of the cross-country trip. “We’ve talked to the guys about the purpose of the trip, why we’re going out there. We’re gong to do everything the same (Saturday) — practice like we would, meet like we would, go over the practice film like we would. So, we want to keep it as similar as we can.”

Philbin took his team to Arizona in Week 4, when Miami lost 24-21 in overtime. Not a true West Coast trip, but a good distance from South Florida nonetheless.

“I thought we had an excellent trip from an operational standpoint when we went (to Arizona),” Philbin said. “Obviously, we want to go out West this time with the same type of focus and attention to the task at hand, but a better outcome.”

To do that, the Dolphins will have to get past a San Francisco team talented in all areas.

Colin Kaepernick is expected to start at quarterback for the fourth straight week after replacing Alex Smith.

“He’s an athlete,” Wake said of Kaepernick. “A guy like that definitely can create problems for a defense if you’re not disciplined.”

Kaepernick isn’t Miami’s only concern. San Francisco has the league’s second-best rushing attack led by former University of Miami star Frank Gore.

Offensively, the Dolphins will face a unit that is second behind Pittsburgh in total defense. Miami will be without left tackle Jake Long, who was placed on injured reserve with a left triceps injury.

“We have to be physical with them. We have to run the football,” guard Richie Incognito said. “We have to take control of the game.”

Something that hasn’t been a Miami routine this season.