Beating the Patriots is never easy with Belichick at the helm and Brady behind center, but Brady has a weakness and the Dolphins have exploited it in prior seasons. Brady is one of the hardest working QBs in professional football. He gains an edge over opponents by recognizing tendencies and understanding what to expect when he sees certain defensive alignments prior to the snap.
Coming out of college Brady’s athleticism was so gangly he dropped to the sixth round of the draft even after consistently showing the ability to come back and wins games at Michigan. The magic of Brady is in the pre-snap read and a clean pocket. He does not run around creating time with his feet or make off-balance throws dodging defenders. He methodically moves through a progression he has analyzed before the snap, while taking small precise steps to avoid pressure and maintain balance.
Brady is the most mechanically sound quarterback in the NFL. His balance and consistent arm motion are the keys to his accuracy. They are also the keys to defending him. When Brady does not play well it is because his pre-snap read has been disrupted and he is forced to throw from awkward arm angles. Easy to define perhaps, but much harder to perform when Belichick and Josh McDaniel know their own weakness.
There was a time when Rex Ryan was in consideration for reaching the status of “great NFL coach,” due to his ability to hold Belichick and Brady in check and playing in two consecutive AFC championship games. The distinction was short lived when Ryan's concept of the Amoeba Defense was diagnosed and defeated by Brady and the New England coaching staff. No self respecting Dolphin fan would ever consider stealing a page from Ryan’s playbook, but Joe Philbin and Kevin Coyle could take the concept to another level.
The Ryan defense consisted of several basic defensive packages disguised by players not coming set until seconds before the play clock expired. It was not long before Belichick realized using an up tempo no-huddle offense would catch the Jet defense out of position wandering in the Amoeba. The Jet defense was ineffective against a quick-snap offense and the Patriots also discovered they could add at least ten extra plays per game to their offense.
The Patriots then perfected the up tempo offense they currently run and the Jets sunk back into obscurity. The Ryan defense was too undisciplined and utilized too much random movement to function in the rapid succession of the Patriot offense. The idea is correct; Brady makes most of his decisions prior to the snap. Clouding his ability to recognize coverages and blitz packages forces Brady off his pre-snap read causing indecisiveness and hesitation. In those pivotal seconds the pass rush has the extra time to bring pressure.
The key for Miami is disciplined deception… Less drastic than an Amoeba approach, the idea is to combine the Amoeba concept with the zone blitz. By using movement and unusual positioning prior to the snap, then filling a predetermined zone or man coverage with the nearest player, the pre-snap read is negated. Notice the seemingly random positioning of the defenders in this example.
The defense looks almost random, but is actually aligned to quickly move to a designated zone or man coverage. In the next example, follow the sequencial movement at the snap, the arrows point to zone areas and the circles are man coverage responisibility.
The defense looks very convoluted in the initial picture but becomes a single high safety with safety help on the strong side and man coverage on the weak side. This is a cross between the Dick Labeau Zone Blitz defense and the Rex Ryan Amoeba defense.
The mistake that Rex Ryan made was to have players moving at the snap in random directions. The players in the example above are spaced at awkward intervals and have some freedom to vary those intervals, but they are essentially set at the snap. When players are moving they can be caught out of position and play can be dictated by the offense. In this scheme the defense dictates to the offense because the gaps are random and require the lineman to choose a player or a spot.
Notice how the offensive players most likely to be thrown quick passes are man covered and the defenders remain in their positions in both examples. The short passing game is defended but any attempt to work down the field will require the QB to allow the defense to rotate into position before being able to read the coverage. The extra second gives the pass rush time to bring pressure.
This is one example of how Tom Brady can be made to second guess his pre-snap read and take a little longer to deliver the football. Over the course of a game these situational additions to the defense can disrupt Brady into making bad decisions and cause turnovers.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are not going to be shutdown, but by frustrating Brady, altering his pre-snap read and getting pressure, the Dolphins can beat the Patriots and end the year on a very positive note. The illustrations were meant for example and by no means an attempt to oversimplify the task of beating Brady and the Patriots, but it can be done and the Dolphins are ready for the challenge.
Happy New Year Dolphin fans!