Dolphins fans are a cynical bunch. If there is a fan base in the NFL that would expect their team to lose against the bye week, it would be Dolphins fans. In 2015, the Dolphins emphatically won the bye week. Following a despicable loss to the Jets in London, the Dolphins returned to Florida and announced that head coach Joe Philbin would be released. Getting rid of a head coach midseason is never a recipe for success. However, this was a much-needed purging that many fans agree should have happened after the 2013 season. The team and their fans needed a jolt. They needed some fire. They needed to break free of the malaise of the previous regime. Enter Dan Campbell. Campbell wasn't going to be the savior to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs. Fans had seen enough of the team in four games to know that competing for the playoffs was off the table. But Campbell gave fans something to look forward to. He said all the right things, made all the right moves, did all the stuff that Philbin didn't. That was what was needed at the time.
The bye week coaching change allowed Campbell time to soak in the new responsibility and get prepared for the Tennessee Titans. Under Philbin, fans knew to expect a flat start and a low dose of the running game. With Campbell, who knew? Unfortunately for the Titans and rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, they found out the hard way.
Remember that lopsided Philbin/Lazor offense with a silly-high pass-to-run ratio? Dan Campbell made Lazor stop that mess, at least for this game. The Dolphins rushed the ball 34 times compared to 31 dropbacks. One of those runs was a Tannehill scramble, so that's 33 rushing plays called vs. 32 passing plays called. For the first time all season, the Dolphins had a balanced attack and they put up 38 points. MAGICAL! Ryan Tannehill went 22-29, 266 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Lamar Miller got 19 carries for 113 yards and a TD. Surprisingly, he didn't turn into dust after the game. Jarvis Landry got the Dolphins on the board with a 22 yard run from a "Statue of Liberty" play, breaking two tackles to plow into the end zone. Dion Sims was welcomed back with a stat line of 4-33-1. Jordan Cameron found the end zone for the first time as a Dolphin, finishing 3-30-1.
If you have noticed, there hasn't been any discussion of sacks in the previous articles. Miami, up to this point, had a grand total of one. Cameron Wake decided he'd had enough of that and earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his 4 sack performance, 2 of which forced turnovers. Olivier Vernon got his first sack of the season and the final play of the game was a sack by reserve safety/special teams player Jordan Kovacs.
For the first time all season, the Dolphins clamped down on the run, holding Tennessee to 63 yards on 18 attempts. Mariota was harassed all game long, sacked 5 times, fumbling twice, and throwing 2 INTs. A low hit from Olivier Vernon (though it looked like he was blocked into a low hit), injured Mariota, but the rookie stayed in the game until it was out of hand. He finished 22-39, 219, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. Brent Grimes picked off Mariota as did Reshad Jones, who picked off a pass and took it to the house.
There wasn't much bad from this game. Tannehill threw two INTs, but one came off a tipped pass and the other was a miscommunication. Since we've been reviewing the bad plays, let's look at that tipped pass interception.
Here is the setup. Miami is in a 4-wide single back set. Cameron is lined up in the slot left.
Tannehill uses a read-option play action to draw in the linebackers. You can see they have moved up from the 45 yard line in the previous picture and are moving to the LOS in this picture.
You can see that this is a quick read for Tannehill. All other receivers are covered and Jordan is moving to a vacated part of the field.
The ball is highlighted in this shot to see the window Tannehill is trying to hit. Jordan is covered, but a good throw puts the ball where only Jordan can catch it.
Hereis the location of the throw. The ball is exactly where Jordan needs to catch it. The red arrow shows the inside hand of the defender. His hand is too far away to deflect the pass. In other words: a perfect pass.
In this shot, the ball is already bouncing out of Jordan's hands. The defender's hand has had no bearing on the outcome of the play.
The safety is the beneficiary of the tipped pass and gets the interception.
Now we get to the good stuff.
Wake had 4 sacks in this game and I looked at the 4th one as it highlights both Wake's ability to get to the quarterback and how the blocking had no chance to stop him.
Here is Miami's defensive set up. Wake is lined up in a wide-9 alignment (outside shoulder of the tight end). Notice the distance between him and the 1-tech (DT lined up between the center and right guard).
Here is the end zone shot just as the ball is snapped. You get a different view of the wide-9 alignment from Wake. You can see the ball is just now moving and the right tackle is still in his stance. Wake is already exploding off the line. His first step is ridiculous.
The TE is trying to 'chip' Wake (a glancing block by a tight end or running back to disrupt the edge rusher's timing before running a route). The blue arrow highlights Wake's signature 'rip' move (the edge rusher swings his inside arm underneath the blocker's arms to disengage from the block). This chip block has no chance. Notice how deep Wake is compared to Olivier Vernon at right end. His first step and speed, combined with the wide alignment creates an almost impossible angle for the right tackle.
This picture shows both Wake and the rip move again and the poor technique by the right tackle. The tackle was too slow to get square to Wake - notice how his feet are parallel to the sideline instead of following Wake with a proper kick-slide. If he was square to Wake, he would have a chance to 'ride' Wake around the pocket (put the edge rusher behind the QB and out of the play). Wake has presented a small moving target for the tackle to get to. Combine that with the rip and the right tackle has no shot. This is the moment when the tackle is beaten.
The tackle whiffs and Wake has a clear shot at Mariota.
Reshad Jones Interception
Here is the set up. The Titans are in a 3 wide, single back set with a tight end in-line. The Titans have a tight end in the slot right. Miami has a single safety deep. Reshad Jones is in coverage over the slot TE.
Similar to the Tannehill play we looked at, Mariota also uses a read-option play action to draw in the linebackers. Reshad Jones is using a "flat-foot read" (no backpedal) to watch the tight end.
Like the Tannehill play, this is a quick read for Mariota. The difference is Reshad Jones. The Tannehill INT was a good read with a good pass, but a failure at the catch point. In this case, you can see Mariota is loading up to throw (red arrow) and Jones is already breaking to the spot (blue arrow).
The blue arrow shows Jones breaking in front of the receiver to make the interception.
Here's the end zone angle. Jones has picked off the pass. The right tackle couldn't react fast enough to make a tackle on Jones. He was the first line of defense.
Jones has a convoy of blockers. The trailing defender is the last line of defense as Mariota has been blocked. Michael Thomas recognizes the trailing defender and turns back to block him.
Thomas ends any chance of Jones getting tackled. It's nothing but open field in front of Jones now.
This play was probably the signature play for the offense in this game.
Miami lined up with 2 WRs lined up left with Rishard Matthews and Lamar Miller in the backfield. Landry is lined up in the slot. In this shot, Miller goes in motion to the left.
Matthews runs to the right and Landry comes back behind Tannehill. Tannehill is carrying out a fake to Miller, who continued his motion to the flat. This would appear to be a quick pass to Miller in the flat.
Instead, the Dolphins run a "Statue of Liberty" play with Landry getting the handoff. Matthews now becomes the leading blocker.
Here is Landry breaking to the right with a little bit of open territory in front of him.
Here is the end zone angle of the last shot. With good blocking, Landry will have a big play.
There are three defenders with a shot at Landry. The play did pick up some big yards but from this shot, you can see the defense has this covered.
One defender whiffs, but the other two have Landry wrapped up.
See, the defenders have stopped Landry... right?
Landry had a whole lot of NOPE for that mess. He breaks those tackles and gets into the end zone.
Keeping Their Foot On The Gas
Under the Philbin regime, Miami played too soft. Miami was up 31-10 at the 2 minute warning in the 4th quarter. The old team would have ran the ball or knelt on it. The Dan Campbell Dolphins? No sir!
Miami comes out in a 4-wide, single back set. Jordan Cameron is lined up solo to the right and 3 WRs left. Tennessee has a single high safety.
This is the play. Cameron runs a simple post route. Notice where the deep safety is on this play.
Here's the end zone angle with the deep safety highlighted. It will be on Tannehill to make sure he isn't a factor in the play.
Here is the shot after the snap. Tannehill is looking to the left (as highlighted), where the 3 receivers are. The deep safety is frozen by this look. He will be too late.
In this shot, the ball is highlighted. You can see the window Tannehill has to throw into. The deep safety was held just long enough to give Tannehill that window.
Here is Cameron after the break on the post route. Look at the open space in front of him.
Tannehill puts the ball up high where only his receiver can go get it. The defender in man coverage is trailing and isn't a factor. The deep safety was not there in time to make a play on the ball. He can still make a hit, but Cameron should hold on to it. He does and a 31-10 game becomes a 38-10 game late in the fourth. That's how you do it!
Dan Campbell's first game as Dolphins head coach was a resounding success. Both sides of the ball showed up to play. Even though Tennessee didn't finish with a good record, this was the type of game Miami would keep too close or even lose. This time, they put it away early and kept their foot on the gas. Dan Campbell's next challenge? Facing a team that Miami has never beaten: the Houston Texans.