How would it be possible to beat the Saints?
I'm not guaranteeing a win, I'm just contemplating how it would be possible to win.
For the purposes of argument, let's assume that
- the Saints score TD every time they have the ball (sadly realistic with our pass defense) AND
- the Dolphins are able to ANSWER every Saints TD drive with a TD of their own. (I suggest going for it on fourth down instead of punting and even in field goal range, but that may not be necessary)
- the Dolphins attempt an onside kick every time instead of kicking it away (successful 1/3 of the time)
Here's how the scoring might unfold:
Saints win the toss. Fins opening kick off (onside kick failed). Saints score (short field) 0-7
Fins answer with a TD instead of a FG (7+ min drive) 7-7
Fins kick off (onside fails). Saints score (short field) 7-14
Fins answer Saints with a TD not a FG (7+ min drive) 14-14
Fins kick off (onside succeeds) settle for a FG 17-14
Fins kick off again (onside fails), Saints score 17-21
Fins answer with TD not FG (7+ min drive strategically running out the clock for the half) 24-21
END OF FIRST HALF
Fins receive the kickoff settle for a FG (7+ min drive) 27-21
Fins kick off (onside fails), Saints score 27-28
Fins answer with a TD instead of a FG (7+ min drive) 34-28
END THIRD QUARTER
Fins kick off (onside succeeds) settle for a FG 37-28
Fins kick off (onside fails) Saints score 37-35
Fins answer with TD not FG (7+ min drive, Saints D is exhausted) 44-35
Fins kick off (onside fails), Saints score 44-42
Fins answer with game-winning drive, run out the clock against an exhausted Saints D 51-42
Even if the Saints get the ball back, they can get at most 8 points Fins win 51-50
END OF GAME
onside kick analysis: Fins succeed only 2/8 times, yet win 51-50.
Obviously this hypothetical scenario is heavily dependent on the assumptions above.
1. Fins must be creative in their onside kick plays and must execute well.
2. By giving the Saints a short field, they are not able to mount time-consuming drives. Provided the Fins can convert 3rd downs, fourth downs, and stay out of third down altogether, they will wear out a very good Saints D with long physical drives in hopefully unseasonably hot and humid weather.
3. This scenario is not dependent on the Fins D AT ALL. Hopefully they can get some deflections at the line on third down, but the assumption here is that the Saints score every time and they score TDs not FGs.
4. Special Teams TDs count the same as answering a Saints TD with a TD. Not as much value in the TOP category, but as long as the Saints always have a short field, they will lose the TOP battle.
5. It is unreasonable to expect that the Fins will answer every Saints TD with a TD of their own, but as you can see from the scoring analysis above, if you can score a TD off of an onside kick recovery or be more successful on onside kicks, you can afford fourth down failures and the consequential Saints scores deep in Fins territory.
Here are some Onside Kick plays that I thought of utilizing some of the fastest and tallest players on the Fins who have good ball skills (since we don't anticipate kicking off, no need for big burly fast guys who can't hang onto the ball).
Onside Kick Play 1. Normal kickoff formation with special kick recovery players. Halfway through their run up to the kick off line, they all plant their left foot and make a 45 degree angle cut toward the right. Carpenter kicks the ball into the ground to get it high into the air toward the right. Receiving team is back on their heels or possibly leaning/sliding to the right. The entire 10 man kickoff team is angling toward the right. Fins outnumber Saints at the 10 yard mark two to one, maybe three to one.
Onside Kick Play 2. Normal formation. Players perform the 45 degree swerve to the right as before but just as Carpenter reaches the ball, the entire team makes a sharp cut to the left. Saints are caught leaning/sliding to the right. Fins outnumber/outjump/volleyball the ball to an open man on the left.
Onside Kick Play 3. Normal formation. Players on right head 45 degrees to the right. Players on left head 45 degrees to the left. Saints receiving team leans with the Fins motion. Carpenter has apparent option to kick left or right. When Carpenter contacts the ball, Fins on both sides make counter cuts to the middle of the field. Fins outnumber Saints in the middle. Carpenter squibs the ball to the middle.
Onside Kick Play 4. Anticipating the Saints moving entire receiving team forward, Carpenter picks a Saints player, informs the team in the huddle and kicks a line drive right at the player. Entire team runs to fumble recovery of ricochet off of Saints player. Fins know where to run, Saints don't. Fins outnumber Saints.
Onside Kick Play 5. Normal formation. Carpenter kicks deep to a predetermined open area behind the bunched up recovery lines of Saints. Fins run through Saints lines to get to spot first. Fins know where to run, Saints don't. Fins outnumber Saints.
Fins have 5 different plays to run (with variants), they simply choose and focus on one. Saints must prepare for all 5 and guess which one is coming. Advantage Fins.
Sorry for the length.