The Dolphin - Raider Match-up

The Oakland Raider - Miami Dolphin games have lost a little luster over the years but these two teams don’t like each other. It goes way back… In the 1974 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, Miami was about to earn a 4th consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Only 24 seconds remained in the game when Raiders RB Clarence Davis somehow caught the game-winning touchdown pass with three Dolphin defenders draped on him and QB Kenny Stabler throwing from his knees.

Ever wonder where the “In the Grasp” rule came from? It wasn’t the last time the Raiders changed the rulebook… In a 1978 game against the Chargers, Stabler fumbled the ball, RB Pete Banaszak deliberately batted it into the end zone, TE Dave Casper recovered for a touchdown and the Raiders won. After that play, only the offensive player fumbling the ball could advance it. Remember the tuck rule, this time the Raiders were on the wrong side of what surely should have been a Tom Brady fumble. A little history lesson makes it easy to see why the Raiders are the most hated team in the NFL, not to mention their obnoxious fans.

That 1974 playoff game was the end of an era for the Dolphins. When Joe Robbie refused to pay Larry Csonka the million dollars he demanded that off-season, Csonka, with Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield defected to the World Football League’s Memphis Southmen. That playoff game would be the final game together for one of the greatest teams in NFL history. For old school Dolphin fans, it will live on in infamy. These players have no link to that history, but it’s time to remind them of their roots and give them a reason to hate the Raiders as much as their fans do.

The Raiders 7-4 record is out of line with its statistical performance. The Oakland defense, allowing over 5 yards a carry, ranked 20th against the pass and 27th in scoring, is not a formula for success, but the Raiders have found their stride. QB Carson Palmer, after a complete collapse in his 1st game, a 28 to 0 loss to KC, has reeled off 3 consecutive victories. The statistics are indicative of the mistake of using overall stats to predict how a team is playing later in the season. The Raiders are playing above the numbers in the stat column and will prove formidable, if taken lightly by the Dolphins.

Oakland has been able to overcome the loss of starting QB Jason Campbell and RB Darren MacFadden, not making the playoffs since 2002 is fueling the Raider fire. Miami will need to play at the top of its game to beat a Raider team that is rolling downhill. Losing to the Cowboys effectively eliminated the Dolphins from the playoffs but this is also a team on the rise. Miami will need to force the Raiders away from its 4th ranked rushing attack and then bring pressure on Palmer to create turnovers.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must not revert to a vanilla game plan on 1st down. The Dolphins find trouble offensively when forced into predictable play calling on 2nd and 3rd down caused by forcing the run between the tackles on 1st down. The Dolphins reverted to predictable play calling against the Cowboys and went away from what had led to a 3 game win streak. The Dallas game plan looked like the Miami coaching staff trying to change what was on film in the 3 previous victories.

Dallas showed a weak front on 1st down and Matt Moore checked to running plays, but the front was a fa├žade as Dallas was bringing safeties in run support at the snap. The coaches showed a season long inability to make adjustments during the game. In-game adjustments are often overrated and teams do not vary much from the game plan, but that only alludes to a flawed game plan from the beginning. The Dolphin offense plays better when not forcing the run early and the game plan must take advantage of this strength. Spreading the field and pulling the defense out of the box opens the running lanes.

Tony Sparano broke his tendency to establish the pass with the run prior to the Dallas game and the old phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” applies well for Miami. The Miami offense works better by setting up the run with the pass because this approach takes advantage of Reggie Bush as a pass receiver. Defenses must respect Bush when he lines up out of the backfield and cannot stack the box giving Bush the open space he needs to use his elusiveness. Forcing Bush to run between the tackles takes away the advantage Miami gains from Bush’s ability in the open field.

The Keys…

Play with the passion of the past.
Shut down the Raider running game.
Pressure Carson Palmer and create turnovers.
Spread the offense on 1st down.
Set up the run with the pass.

Miami 31 – Oakland 14