Belichick outcoached in Miami Dolphin Victory

Early in the first drive on Monday night, Adam Gase sent Kenyan Drake in motion to the far sideline, just to watch who followed. When a linebacker scurried after Drake, Gase smiled. Belichick did not think Kenyan Drake could beat him. Jay Cutler promptly threw the pass and though it was only an eight yard gain, Adam Gase had his answer, Kenyan Drake… 114 yards rushing and 79 yard receiving, Ajayi who? This is the offense Gase has been trying to run since landing in Miami.

There was a lot of media talk in New England about respecting the Dolphins, yadda yadda… Reality is, eight straight victories does not help the respect factor. Belichick respects one player on the Dolphins offense, Jarvis Landry. Cringe Miami fans, Billy will be the GM Miami is bidding against when Landry goes on the open market next season, but that is a discussion for another time. Gase confirmed that Landry was the weapon Billy Boy would try to take away and it played straight into the game plan. On one Monday night, Gase had outsmarted Belichick and was ready with Kenyon Drake.

Incredibly, Jay Cutler outperformed Tom Brady throwing 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards, three TDs, but it was Drake who stole the show. Kenyan had 193 total yards and Gase used him all over the field, as a back, in the slot, as a wide out, coming in motion. Belichick had his defense all set up to shut down Landry and Gase figured it out almost immediately. Amazingly, Gase was able to sense when Matt Patricia was leaning toward Drake and it led to two Jarvis Landry TDs.

Cutler was spreading the ball all over the field, hitting seven different receivers in the first half. The TD throw and circus catch by Jakeem Grant was a thing of beauty. Grant also had a chance to ice the game in the fourth quarter on a bomb that bounced off his hands. Grant will remember the miss perhaps more than the catch, but when it was all over, he was forgiven! Even much maligned DeVante Parker came away with 4 clutch catches for 40 yards.

All the offensive talk was overshadowed by the aggressive defense that kept Tom Brady running for his life all night. Six hits planted him on his backside along with two sacks. Miami’s Boy named Suh did exactly what he said he would do and pissed
off Brady with a hard sack. As Gase is fond of saying, “Brady could feel Suh” the whole night. The numbers do not reflect the impact Suh and Wake had on Tom Brady and the New England offense, but Brady will remember.

Missing the Gronk, his favorite target, Brady threw some uncharacteristic interceptions to Miami’s new ball hawk, Xavien Howard. Howard had two interceptions while covering Demaryius Thomas last week and two interceptions while covering Brandin Cooks on Monday night. Amazingly, the Miami defense held the Patriots to an unheard of 0 of 11 on third downs. It has been 423 games since 1991 that New England was held without and 3rd down conversion! Astounding defense…

It was a night of redemption for Matt Burke, he called blitzes and stunts from multiple angles, after Miami had shown New England nothing two weeks ago. His defensive backs were able to play tighter coverage mixing zones with man to confound Brady. Assigning Xavien Howard to man-cover Brandin Cooks resulted in two classic picks. Wake, Godchaux, Phillips, McDonald, and Jones, all came from everywhere keeping Brady antsy and guessing. Tom Terrific threw more passes in the dirt than Cutler would have on a bad Smoking Jay evening.

The pressure from the Miami front four came from the middle as Jordan Phillips and the Boy named Suh got to Brady for sacks. Brady was hopping around in the collapsing pocket looking very uncomfortable. Playing with a lead definitely suits the talent of the Miami defense and it shined. The wide nine, easily gashed with a persistent running attack when Miami plays from behind is a monster when this defense plays with a lead.

A season that seemed long gone two weeks ago is somehow back to a sense of relevance. The talk of playing for draft status rings as hollow as the selection of Dion Jordan with the 3rd pick. There is no value in drafting high if a team does not believe it can win. Aside from the quarterback, winning in the NFL is not so much about talent as it is about heart and precision. When a team is smart and plays with passion, there is always a chance for victory. Neither star of this game, Drake or Howard was selected in the 1st round.

If one game can make a season for Miami Dolphin fans, this was that game. Adam Gase finally outsmarted Bill Belichick and the future now looks much brighter in Miami.

Miami Dolphins vs Patriots Week 14 Game Chat

Week 14 is here. Find a stream of the game here.

Miami Dolphins Finally Play with a Lead

Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I...

Dolphin fans must be feeling like a Pink Floyd song… The last time Miami scored more points was over two seasons ago. It’s been 41 games, since Miami won by a larger margin. In 2016, Miami won all those close games that statistically must average out and to expect a repeat in 2017 was probably naive. This season’s previous four victories were by margins of two, six, three and three points. The formula is unsustainable and in hindsight, the five game losing crash was probably predictable.

Perhaps it was Vance Joseph or John Elway, all smug up in his box after yucking it up with Dan Marino before the game, “nanny, nanny poo poo, I won two Super Bowls after blowing it three times!” The mighty have fallen. It’s hard to say Jay Cutler is better than Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian, but it wouldn’t matter because this game was about the Miami defense.

Earlier this season, Adam Gase was roundly criticized for saying something like, “this defense is designed to play with a lead.” After a Cutler to Thomas touchdown followed closely by a Xavien Howard pick six, Miami finally had that lead.

The defense responded, Howard picked off the first two passes of his NFL career and broke up a league-leading five passes. Siemian was sacked by Andre Branch, Jordan Phillips and Bobby McCain and T.J. McDonald added a third pick.

This game highlighted players like Phillips who along with the sack, had two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and deflected a pass that Howard intercepted. Playing with a lead in the second half, the Dolphin defense punished Denver, with three sacks, six tackles for loss, an unheard of 12 passes defensed and hit Siemian six times. For the first time in the franchise’s 52 year history, Miami had two safeties in the same game. The absence of names like Wake and Suh are what make this game unusual.

Denver has now lost eight consecutive games, but maybe there is something to this playing with a lead thing. It ignited Kenyan Drake who set career highs in yards (120) and carries (23). Drake included 42-yard touchdown run all against the fourth ranked run defense in the NFL. There was the usual interception thrown near DeVante Parker, but Kenny Stills busted Denver open with 98 receiving yards, including a touchdown.

Special Teams did not score, but Terrence Fede blocked a punt. After the safeties, Denver was forced to kickoff (punt) from the 25 and Miami enjoyed excellent field position the entire game. Trying and converting an onside kick while up 24 points was a like jabbing a needle into the side of Elway and Joseph. Clearly Adam Gase showed a side Miami fans are not accustomed to, playing with a lead…

An onside kick leading by 24 points could be construed as piling on, but Miami rarely has the cut-throat mentality needed to make a statement in the NFL. The trophy-for-everyone, anthem kneeling millennials will be aghast, while long suffering Miami fans can finally smile at the Belichickian move.

“Designed to play with a lead.” It is a rather presumptuous statement to believe you will be leading prior to actually leading anything. It’s a vague answer to the question, “what is your identity?” Knowing the identity and achieving that identity are two distinctly different things. The game showed that aside from some linebacker issues, this Miami defense can indeed play well with a lead.

The real change in the offense seemed to be a split from the predictable first down “A” gap running plays to a more spread, short passing outside the tackles running game. The talk of taking advantage of a player’s skill was evident in not forcing Kenyan Drake between the tackles on early downs. When Drake did venture inside, it was when the defense was expecting pass or outside runs. The 42-yard burst came on a counter between the tackles. This offense was much better coordinated than any previous game this season.

The onsides kick was a product of the frustration Adam Gase undoubtedly felt coming into this game. It’s hard to conceive Gase was unhappy with Joseph for taking the Denver job, but Joseph does seem in over his head as a first year head coach.

Miami comes into a rematch with New England in a much better place mentally. Belichick saw how Miami played with a lead and he’ll be working on playing outside-in on defense. It is hard for Miami fans not to peak at the end of the season now that the playoffs are all but a dream, but losing is just losing. With a glimpse of what it’s actually like to play with a lead, let next season stay in the future and win now.

The Denver Broncos game showed there is an identity. It lies in an offense that scores points early and often. Couple that with a defense that becomes relentless once an opponent realizes it will have to throw the football. We know now where Adam Gase wants to go, he’s designed this thing to play with a lead. It’s up to the Miami Dolphins to go and get it.

Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I...