clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Spikegate: The case of the Dolphins spiking the ball on 1st down

The Miami Dolphins lost to the Baltimore Ravens 26-23 on Sunday. Since the end of the game, a lot of focus has been on the team's decision to spike the ball on a first down during the final drive, as Miami looked to tie, or win, the game.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Let's call it Spikegate, because at this point, that's what it has become. In the fourth quarter of this past Sunday's game, the Miami Dolphins were looking to either tie or take the lead from the Baltimore Ravens. The drive started with 1:42 remaining on the clock and Miami down three points. After three incomplete passes, quarterback Ryan Tannehill scrambled away from pressure and somehow found Brandon Gibson 46 yards down the field.

Tannehill and the offense then rushed up to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball, stopping the clock and giving the team 2nd and 10 from the Baltimore 34. The next two plays saw the Dolphins allow sack number six on Tannehill, losing five yards, then an incomplete pass. Caleb Sturgis was brought on to the field to try a 57-yard field goal, which he would ultimately miss and the Dolphins would lose the game.

Never mind the repeated dropped passes on the drive. Forget about the offensive line giving up their sixth sack of the game. Apparently, the Dolphins lost the game thanks to that spike to stop the clock.

Was it the wrong call? Yes. Why? Because the team allowed a sack and then had yet another incomplete pass on the drive, stalling it and leading to the field goal attempt.

But that's the 20/20 vision that comes from hindisght. Was Joe Philbin supposed to know the sack was coming on second down? Did he know that Charles Clay would not catch the ball on third down?

I agree with people who say the team probably should have run a play on first down, rather than spike the ball and waste the down. But the vitriol surrounding this decision is ludicrous.

Let's say the team ran up there with another pass play, and Tannehill was sacked. The Ravens lay on him for a couple extra beats, then the team tries to get lined up for another play, while the clock ticked down, and rushed a play that may or may not do anything. Maybe Tannehill gets sacked again. What would we all be screaming about how the team wasted the clock, and the poor time management of Joe Philbin. Instead, we are upset about a play that nearly every coach in the league would decide to do in that situation.

But let's go back to the 20/20 hindsight pointing to the spike being a bad decision because the team could use another down to try to better the position for Sturgis on the final kick. Do we really expect Joe Philbin to come out and tell us how screwed up that play was? If you did, you clearly have not been watching this team for the last year plus, and you haven't heard Philbin in a press conference.

Philbin never tells us anything when he meets with the media. He definitely does not discuss things like play calls. He will always say he supported the decision and that he would do it again. He's not publicly going to fry any of his coaches or players, and he will not second guess anything in public.

In private, I'm sure that's a different story. But in public, we get:

"We were 1st-and-10 on the Baltimore 34. We spiked it with 1:01 remaining on the clock. It was an inbound completion on 1st-and-10 with a running clock. I made the decision to do that. I thought it was the right thing to do at that particular point of time.

"I thought it was the right thing to do at that point in time. I knew the situation. It was an inbound completion. The clock was moving. I wanted to have a couple of clean plays that we could execute well to move the ball into scoring position."

"I do. I was the one who made the call," Philbin added when asked if he stands by the decision.

Let's believe that, as a coach who has worked his way into one of just 32 top level position in the game, is smart enough to look back at that one play and say "Hmmm...maybe we could have done that differently." He has never been one to talk a lot to the press. Why would he start now?

And, rather than focusing on one spike play - or the coach's comments about that play the next day - maybe we should be worried about the offensive line's inability to block or the fact that people who are paid to catch the ball keep dropping the ball.

Or, we can all complain about the spike until we get a chance to complain about not spiking the ball.

More Dolphins Coverage:

Join the discussion: Sign up for your free Phinsider and SB Nation account