Miami Dolphins 17 Patriots 27
The Miami Dolphins were handed their 4th straight loss of the season on Sunday by the New England Patriots in a 24-17 second half rout. After starting off with a tremendous lead of 17-3 by the end of the first half, a completely different team stepped in to the second allowing 24 unanswered points.
Although many fans including myself felt the need to lay the loss on the officiating crew seemingly one-sided and incorrect calls the blame has to lie on the Dolphins and only the Dolphins themselves. I spent some time last night trying to figure out what went wrong and who was at fault – was it the defense allowing 24 unanswered points? Was it Tannehill who couldn’t seem to connect in the second half? Was the loss of Gibson so early in the game the pivotal point that tipped the scales to the Patriots favor? The facts are that the team itself did exactly what they needed to do. Tannehill was playing an accurate game, spreading the ball around to 9 receivers in the first half alone. The defense did their part by holding a Patriot offense to just 3 points by the end of the first half. The running game reached 156 total yards by the time the clock ticked away the Dolphins loss and even managed to hold time of possession with a total of 34:59 minutes. So how could all of this that sounds like the recipe for a clear win end up in such a devastating loss?
The simple answer is that two halves of football were played by two different Dolphin teams. By the end of the first half the Dolphins running game reached 103 yards, in the second 53 (12 of which was on a Tannehill scramble). The time of possession was 15:50 compared to the 19:09 in the first. The Dolphins had 8 rushing first downs by the end of the first half and only 1 in the second through a gimmick play with Mike wallace in the 2nd. The Dolphins themselves did everything right, they conquered the New England Patriots in the first half and showed everyone what they are capable of, but what is striking is that those same players played a completely second half, so what changed? The simple answer is the coaching changed. Mike Sherman called the plays one way on the first half and completely switched on the second. Maybe he was afraid that Belichick would come out after halftime and automatically use his genius to stop the Dolphins advance. Maybe he was so over-confident that having a 14 point lead already was good enough not to have to drive it home. But one play, one play changed the whole game. This one play was the pivoting point of the entire game. Bad officiating aside in this game Mike Sherman is to blame for the loss this Sunday.
At the start of the second half the Patriots are down by 14 and the Dolphins are threatening after a Mike Wallace rush for 8 yards on the New England 27. A fresh set of downs and 27 yards stand in the way of a 21 point lead so what is the play call here for Sherman?
Its 3rd and 2 and the Dolphins have already rushed for 128 yards well into the 3rd quarter. Sherman calls for a Bunch Formation pass play lining up the receivers in point, outside and inside. lamar Miller is just to the left to offer protection on the quick pass to one of the receivers 6 yards down field – A high rate of success comes from this formation when facing zone coverage. The only problem here is, the Patriots are showing inside Blitz and they are coming right up the middle. Now you have 5 offensive linemen and a running back standing up against 6 defenders and one is bound to be unblocked. Why was the play not changed to a Trap Play? The Trap Play is the immediate succession when facing a clear rush, its basic football especially in the West Coast Offense. The backside guard would fold block into the “A” gap slowing down the penetration, Clay would slide to the left after the snap and become the extra blocker in the off tackle slot and with a hand off, Lamar Miller could have run on the left for at the very, very least, a 2 yard gain. This type of play gains an offense an average of 8 yards 82% of the time when facing a Blitz (per profootballfocus.com). Instead, the play stood as called originally by Sherman and the result was that the Patriots come in fast and sacked Tannehill for an 8 yard loss. After that one play, only 4 rushing plays were called for the rest of the game.
Sherman gave up on what was the Dolphins bread and butter the entire first half and well into the 3rd quarter. The Patriots managed to close the gap and tied the game but at 17-17, leaving the run for passing plays was not the right call, especially since the passing game was weakened with the loss of Gibson early on. The Dolphin team played and played very well, the defense held the Patriots and the Patriots defense was tired from the run that kept them on the field longer then Belichick was used to. The move from a running offense that was winning the game to passing schemes is what did the Dolphins in not the bad officiating or the second half Tannehill mistakes. This loss lands squarely on the Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman, and i can only hope that Philbin or Ireland is having a nice chat with him this morning or at least already making a short list for the next offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins.
By Sergio Peralta