This will be my weekly feature for the Phisider; I'll be analyzing 2 of the biggest plays of the previous game, and explaining what we did, why it worked, and how it affected the game. Not a lot of fluff, just a frame-by-frame breakdown of the play.
First play of the series is Karlos Dansby's huge hit on Bills QB Trent Edwards very early in the 1st Quarter. The hit set the tone for the entire game defensively, and showed everyone what kind of sneaky stuff Mike Nolan can dial up at a moment's notice.
The play can be seen at :07 seconds of THIS VIDEO.
Setting the Stage
1st quarter, Bills with the football. It's their first drive of the game, and they are stalling after a dropped pass and a deflected pass on 1st and 2nd downs. On 3rd and 10, from their own 25, they go into a Shotgun, 4-wide set, with 3 WR's to the right in a Trips set, and Spiller in the backfield to Edwards' right. They are looking to pick up the first and get the offense into a rhythm on their first drive, and they want to avoid going three-and-out to start the game...
As you can see, the Dolphins Defense starts with 11 players within 5 yards of the Line of Scrimmage. Chris Clemons (dreadlocks, numbered "11," along the 30 yard line) is the deepest man, 5 yards from the LOS. The Bills have 3 WR's to the right (top of the screen), 1 to the left, and Spiller to Edwards' right in the backfield. It's fairly obvious this is a pass play based on personnel and down-distance. Edwards is looking at a heavy blitz, possibly 7 defenders, and Cover 1 or Cover 0 at this point.
As the ball is snapped, Clemons has retreated to about 8 yards and is in a full drop. Miami is in a Cover 1, with 4 players in Man Coverage, and Clemons, the FS, over the top. You can see Clemons circled on the left of the screen, and the 4 players in Man located with arrows pointing to their assignments. 6 players (counted out) show blitz and begin to rush Edwards. As of the snap of the ball, we have overloaded their left side with 3 rushers (Wake, Misi, and Dansby) against 2 linemen. Edwards needs to make a hot read and get the ball out.
Before we get to the 3rd frame, I'm going to discuss Buffalo's play call here. They ran Fly patterns with the 2 outside WR's, high-low drags with the 2 slot's, and Spiller runs to the flats from the RB position. Edwards' first read is the drags, second is the RB in the flats. Those are his "hot reads" against the overload blitz because of the Cover 1 look...
As the play develops a little more, you can see the secondary clearly picking up their WR's, and Clemons is now far off-screen getting deep in his zone to stay on top of the WR's. Dansby (indicated by the star on the bottom of the screen) is rushing full-force, and there is nobody to account for him. The only way he doesn't get a sack is if Edwards gets the ball off before he arrives. This is also when you can see the zone blitz develop for Miami. All 6 players are not blitzing. NT Randy Starks (circled) pulls up on his rush and begins to drop into a middle zone, right into the 2 drag routes that the Bills were looking to hit.
You can see the routes developing here, and you can also see the genius in Nolan's play call beginning to show here. Starks (circled, name beneath) has dropped right into the drag routes and cut them off from Edwards. The best part of this play is Yeremiah Bell breaking off his rush to pick up Spiller heading to the flats (Edwards' 2nd read with the blitz coming). You can see Bell pulling up and taking off to cover Spiller where the star is. Dansby (arrow w/ name) is now full speed coming off the edge and is completely unaccounted for. The reason he is untouched is because of the stunt being run by Misi and Wake. Misi has pushed into the guard and rushed his outside, trying to chip the OT on the way through. Wake rushed upfield, then cut underneath Misi to try and get in an inside gap. The OT chases Wake to the inside, which allows Dansby to come untouched.
Edwards has no idea he's about to get bulldozed, and it's about a tenth of a second from happening. His only 2 reads (remember, Miami showed a 6 man blitz) are covered by blitzers that dropped into coverage. Starks (arrow) is right in the throwing lane of both drag routes, and Bell has picked up Spiller. You can see the end result of the Misi-Wake stunt (numbered, 1 is Wake, 2 is Misi) and how the OT has completely left his post to chase Wake inside. A 4-man zone blitz has occupied all 5 of Buffalo's blockers AND sprung a rusher free. It's only a matter of time before this happens...
And boom goes the dynamite. Dansby kills Edwards, Buffalo fails on 3rd down, and Miami's D gets off the field. Buffalo's LT (#77, circled), is seen clearly missing his assignment by attacking Wake inside, and Edwards pays for it. You can also see how Bell was all over Spiller in the short flat which was the only place Edwards could go with the ball at that point. The Bills' player in the middle of the field is covered by Starks and the DB, who are just off-screen. And when Karlos Dansby makes a 3rd down sack, this happens...
Frame 7 (The Sprinkler)
Karlos Dansby does the Sprinkler. He is now my favorite player.
After this play, Buffalo punted on 4th and 19 from their own 16. The punt ended up just across the 50 on Miami's 49, GREAT starting field position for our first drive of the game, and the Dolphins offense turned that into a 9-play, 37-yard drive taking 5:08 off the clock and culminating in a Dan Carpenter Field Goal. Sack, Punt, Good Field Position, Points. And the 3 point lead was a direct result of a beautiful Zone Blitz call by Mike Nolan, executed perfectly by our defense.
**Note: Clicking the Pictures will bring them to full-size**