Normally, especially after a win, it is "Strange" to write about a bad play. There are choices for some really good plays to focus on that would better fit the mood around these parts. Nevertheless, while reviewing the game for a different post on Jonathan Martin, I noticed something interesting (I wrote about it there, but I thought it was worth its own post). It wasn't so much the play itself, but the aborted play right before it. A lot of Dolphins’ fans have been wondering aloud why Reggie Bush isn't utilized more in the passing game, and why Sherman doesn't find more ways to get him in space. Some people want to see him lined up in the slot or wide out (even with Daniel Thomas or Lamar Miller at HB).
Well, if you look at the play right before the fumble; a play that never happened because the Bengals called a time out perturbed by what they saw, you will see that this is precisely what Sherman had planned as a way to attack the RZ.
Below is an image of the play that the Bengals stopped by calling a time out. The arrows indicate the players I think are key from a personnel perspective. Key, in spite of, or rather because there is nothing unusual about the personnel grouping in and of itself. At the top is Reggie Bush bunched up with Hartline and Bess wide. In the backfield with Tannehill is Javorskie Lane. At the bottom is Anthony Fasano.
As the play is being whistled dead because of the time out, Ryan Tannehill does a quick throw to Reggie Bush. You can imagine how dangerous that might be, with blockers out in front, and too few defenders in the immediate vicinity. You know exactly why they called the play dead.
Following the time out we can see that the Phins came out in the exact same personnel, as indicated by the arrows, although in a different formation. Fasano is on the line. Bush is now in the slot, and Lane is alone in the backfield. When Tannehill drops back to hand off the ball, Bush sweeps back from the slot for a fake hand-off (ala Ricky Williams in the wildcat) and Tannehill hands the ball to the FB instead. This should look familiar, as Reggie was involved in similar plays last season against the Chiefs and Redskins that lead to TDs. In this case though, Lane takes the ball…
What happens on the play is that Fasano takes on Carlos Dunlap, a physically gifted DE, who stands him up at the line. Lane basically runs into him, trying to get to the outside. He may have done better cutting in. Nate Clements is not fooled by the fake to Bush, and he makes a "heads up play" with his helmet on the ball under Dunlap and Fasano’s arms, forcing the fumble. The pic below shows Bush with an arrow at the top faking the hand off (Lane with the ball just below him). The lower arrow shows one angle of Fasano being stood up. The DB who makes the play is coming in from the bottom left.
I found this play intriguing because I intuited that they needed to hand the ball off to Lane to keep the D honest. He is a bruising full back who earned some trust by his previous play, and Bush will be a more serious threat if teams feel they really do need to account for the other back. The personnel itself is important because it is standard for the phins on both running and passing plays, where Bush, Lane and Fasano are in their usual tailback, fullback and tight end positions. Moving them around in ways that can exploit Bush's unique talents, or other potential mismatches is part of the mystique. Of course, that is pure speculation on my part, but it jumped out at me what I was watching the game. Sadly, Lane fumbled the ball. Additionally, I am not sure Fasano on Dunlap was a smart matchup.
That being said, the interesting part of these two plays is that they show some willingness to experiment with Bush in different formations. I wonder if the fumble made them take it off the table for the time being, as we didn't see anything like it for the rest of the game. Hopefully we will see it again with more success.