In Part 2 of this feature, I'll analyze Anthony Fasano's big reception early in the 2nd quarter that set up Ronnie Brown's TD run. This was the first time all game we saw Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning open it up in the passing game, and it paid off with a big play.
Setting the Stage
2nd quarter, Dolphins with the football just outside the Bills redzone at the 22 yard line. This is the 11th play of a drive that started on Miami's own 35, and is immediately following an illegal formation penalty negating a Brian Hartline reception. It's 2nd and 12. Miami's normal play here is to go conservative and set up for a field goal, but Henning dials up something a little different...
The play can be seen at :50 seconds of THIS VIDEO
Miami comes out in an Empty set, 5-wide with Fasano at TE spot, but off the ball. He started the play on the right side and motioned across to the left. The Bills pretty much give their defense away, lining up in straight man coverage, with 2 deep safeties, in a coverage usually referred as Man 2 or 2 Man Under. The 5 players underneath will play straight man coverage, with each safety playing Deep Half and providing help over the top.
Off the snap, you can see each WR working for an outside release. Buffalo brings a 4-man rush, with 7 in coverage (once again, 5 in man and 2 deep safeties). Henne has good protection, and the stunt the Bills try against our left side is stymied without a problem. The star indicates Fasano, who runs his route directly at the LB who is assigned to cover him.
Quick tangent on that point. The reason Fasano runs at the LB is to get him back on his heels and take away his ability to open his hips and run with him. By "running his feet," Fasano is able to put a move on him and get quick separation because the LB is unable to play with any positional leverage.
Back to the play, you can see the one safety retreating and opening towards the sideline, over the top of the 2 WR's streaking up the field.
Before the next frame, we'll take a quick peek into the play call of each side. The Bills, as has already been mentioned, played it extremely safe with 2 deep safeties over the top of man coverage, and a base 4-man rush. The rushers ran an inside-out stunt on their right side, trying to generate some pressure. The Dolphins went with an empty backfield, and all 5 receivers ran vertical routes. The 4 outside WR's get outside releases to turn their defenders away from the middle of the field, which allows Fasano to work one-on-one against a LB. The vertical action of every receiver forces the safeties to split and leave the deep middle of the field open.
Not much different here. You can see the great protection Henne has. He's got all day back there. You can also see the two slot defenders with their backs to the middle of the field. The outside release by the WR's did it's job because neither of those players can recognize Fasano going down the middle. Fasano is in the process of putting a shake on the LB, which freezes him and allows big #80 to get above him.
Fasano has his man beat. He's past him, right down the middle of the field, and Henne has already let the ball go. It really is a perfect pass thrown by Chad, with enough touch to get over the LB's head, and enough zip to get there before the safeties arrive. The offensive line destroys Buffalo's pass rush, giving Henne plenty of room to step into the throw.
Here you see Fasano rising up and making the catch. He does a great job adjusting to the football and elevating for the reception. The other 4 WR's are seen here stretching the field and spreading the defense out (all four of them are outside the numbers). You can also see both safeties outside the hashmarks as the ball arrives, due to the vertical routes by our WR's. Beautifully thrown football, great read, and a great catch.
Here's the end of the play. Fasano has ran over the first safety to arrive, and gotten dragged down by the LB that he beat on the route. He stretches, but doesn't get in. It was almost reminiscent of his TD vs Kansas City in 2008, when he ran through a tackle and stretched across the goal line, but he couldn't get the ball out on this play. And when Chad Henne makes a big throw, he gives you a big celebration...
Frame 7 (The Celebration)
The Robot is ecstatic right now...
Following this play, Miami had 1st and Goal from the 1, and Ronnie punched it in for 6. This gave us a 10-0 lead, which Buffalo never overcame. Another 5+ minute drive ending in points, this one set up by a beautiful pitch-and-catch from Henne to Fasano. It's plays like these we are all anxious to see more of from the Dolphins. 5-wide, all verticals, let Henne pick the mismatch and put the ball up. This was a terrific call by Henning, and it was the perfect play call against the conservative 2-deep coverage of the Bills
**Note: Clicking the Pictures will bring them to full-size**