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Tuesday Dolphin Nuggets

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You know, maybe "Dolphin Nuggets" isn't what I should have titled this.  Reminds me of some kind of disgusting special at a local diner or something.

Anyways, I just wanted to provide some food for thought on this Tuesday - still 5 days away from this team's next playoff game.  And yes, that's what these games have been and will continue to be - playoff games.  Oh the excitement of meaningful December football!

Incase you didn't watch Tony Sparano's "day after" press conference, you might have missed what Tony said about the decision to be a pass-first offense on Sunday against the 49ers - limiting Ronnie Brown's touches to just 11.

Apparently, this was the gameplan all along for Sunday's game against SF.  Said Sparano:

"I think one of the things is we went into this game feeling like, versus this team, we had to be fairly aggressive early in the game.  And we were.  We came out and we made a good play down the field to David Martin and we took a shot at one point to Teddy down the sideline and we did some things that way."

Sparano added:

"As far as running the football went, the plan was to pretty much spread these guys out a little bit - be a little bit more aggressive.  Give the quarterback some option plays where we could run or throw and in some of those situations, it just ended up being throws."

Makes sense.  If you recall, I even said in a post last week that I had a feeling Chad Pennington might have a big game.  He didn't exactly have a big game, but the plan was obviously for Chad to make some plays with his arm - and he did.

Knowing what we know now, though - that the gameplan all along was to pass against the Niners - the run/pass ratio doesn't seem as glaring as it did on Sunday.  In fact, of the Dolphins 40 plays (they officially ran 42, but 2 were kneel-downs), 19 were running plays and 21 were passing.  Not too much of a discrepancy there.

Going one step further, the Dolphins ran 19 plays in the first half - 13 passes, 6 rushes.  Things changed in the 2nd half, presumably because the coaches realized that the Niners were playing more of a "shell" defense, making down-field passing tougher.  The second half saw the Fins call 13 rushes to 8 passes.

So, clearly, as frustrated as many of us were on Sunday, the play-calling wasn't was questionable as many made it out to be (including myself).  The fact of the matter is that Ronnie Brown touched the ball 11 times in 40 plays - or 27.5% of the time.  The problem was that the defense couldn't get the Niners' offense off of the field - until the "red area," that is.  So the Fins only got to run 40 plays.

Yes, I know the accepted term is "red zone."  But Tony Sparano always calls it the "red area" - and who am I to argue with him? 

It's been no secret that a major part of Miami's surprising success this year has been their play in the red area - well, that and Miami's ability to not turn the ball over.  But just how good has this team been inside the red area on both offense and defense?  Those are the numbers I want to provide for you.

Be advised that the Dolphins' rankings for offensive and defensive "red area" efficiency are based on numbers prior to this week's games being played (didn't feel like waiting for the stats to get updated).  I have updated the stats for the Dolphins, though.

Offense - 4th ranked
24 touchdowns on 38 possessions - 63.2%

Defense - 6th ranked
18 touchdowns allowed on 42 possessions - 42.9%

What's truly staggering is when you compare those figures to last year's performance in the red zone.  Offensively, the Dolphins scored just 20 touchdowns on 39 possessions (51.3%).  The more dramatic of the two, though, is defensively.  Last year, the Dolphins were ranked dead last in the NFL in red zone defense, surrendering 34 touchdowns on 52 possessions (65.4%).

What a difference a year makes.