The Dolphins’ Formation: How They Did It

The Dolphins’ Formation: How They Did It

The Dolphins wanted to try the “Wildcat” offense during the pre-season, but running back Ronnie Brown’s sprained right thumb delayed those plans.

Sunday in New England, the timing was perfect for a trick formation, and the result was a stunning 38-13 victory.

The idea was reborn eight days ago, as the Dolphins flew home from a discouraging loss at Arizona. Coach Tony Sparano called quarterbacks coach David Lee to the front of the plane to discuss ways to beat a team that had won 21 consecutive regular-season games.

Lee ran the exotic formation last year when he was offensive coordinator at the University of Arkansas. In Fayetteville he called it the “Wild Hog” and used running back Darren McFadden to create havoc by lining up as a quarterback in the shotgun.

Sunday, it was Brown who lined up six times at quarterback and came away with three touchdown runs and one scoring pass. Brown also ran for a touchdown from a conventional set.

They tried it for the first time on second-and-goal from the 2, late in the first quarter. Brown waltzed into the end zone past a confused Patriots defense.

Lighting Up N.F.L. Scoreboards

the most stunning offensive performance was by the Miami Dolphins in their 38-13 victory over the Patriots. The back-to-earth performance of Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel was to be expected (and predicted by Porter, who backed up his pregame trash talk with three sacks). Opponents now have film of Cassel and what they see is an offense that has lost all semblance of the wide-open, down-the-field attack that made the Patriots virtually unstoppable with Tom Brady. The short screen passes on which the Patriots would like to rely are less effective.

But Brady didn’t play defense, and that’s where the Patriots’ real troubles lie now. New England was shredded by an exotic formation — the Dolphins called it “Wildcat” — in which running back Ronnie Brown produced an astonishing four touchdowns from six direct snaps (three runs, one pass to Anthony Fasano). Brown also scored a touchdown out of a — ho-hum — conventional set. New England safety Rodney Harrison admitted the Patriots had no idea that formation was coming — shocking enough for a team known for its meticulous preparation — but after Brown had run for two touchdowns and thrown for another, the Patriots were still unable to adjust, allowing one more 62-yard Brown touchdown run.

“Wildcat” didn’t just expose a hole in the Patriots’ game plan, it exposed just how much the brilliance of Brady covered up. Without him, the onus falls on the defense to keep games close and it’s hard to imagine that the rebuilding Dolphins are the toughest offense the Patriots will face this season. The defense tried to figure out what the Dolphins were doing on the sideline — Belichick could be seen talking with defensive coordinator Dean Pees after one of Brown’s direct snaps — but to no avail.

Comment: The most surprising game of the week - the Dolphins upset New England!

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