Beginning by working backward over the course of a week, the first of a three part series starts with the ugly…
There were many reasons to be disappointed in the Miami Dolphins loss to the New England Patriots on Monday night, but there were equal reasons for optimism. The Patriot offensive game plan to crank up the pace bewildered the Dolphin defense. The use of WRs disguised as TEs left the Dolphins incapable of responding.
The Miami game plan to rush only 3 or 4 and drop the rest into coverage gave Tom Brady enough time to exploit the Miami secondary at will. The lack of conditioning on the Dolphin side of the ball was evident. It is obvious; the Patriots spent the entire training camp in the hurry-up offense. Being in the same offense and in possession of the playbook also gave the Patriots a distinct advantage coming into this season.
When Steven Ross petitioned the NFL to eliminate one o’clock games in Miami, it’s doubtful he envisioned opening against the Patriots on Monday night. The Dolphins are the first among many teams that will have trouble with this NE offense. Belichick has taken a page from Shula or Dungy, by deciding to ride on the back of his QB, and see where it will take him.
It goes without saying the Patriot offense revolves around Tom Brady but this version has taken that to a new level. Using a two TE set as a base passing formation is a brilliant scheme. To the defense it looks like a running formation, it is not. Showing what looks like a run formation traps the defense in its base package and then the Patriots switch immediately to a hurry-up offense not allowing the defense to substitute.
The NE offense, pre-conditioned for the rapid-fire attack limited Miami's ability to substitute, and effectively ran the Dolphins ragged. Once the heat and exhaustion overcame Miami, Brady took advantage of reserves forced into action by the fatigued starters. When Bill Belichick has six months to game plan, there is certain to be a dazzling outcome. Miami was unfortunate in having the first glimpse at what will be keeping defensive coordinators around the league awake at night.
Miami was not prepared, but it is doubtful any team could have envisioned this offense prior to seeing it. For that reason, the Dolphin faithful should temper their criticism and realize the first game of the season was against the best offense in the NFL. Miami actually kept the game close until the very end and that leads to some reasons for optimism.