Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dolphins pushover the windbags

I did watch the game...

All week, Jason Taylor kept saying the Bears put on their pants one leg at a time, and could be beaten. He sounded a bit like a crakpot, since the Bears were 7-0, and Miami looked bad...but he turned out to be right.

But before we get into this game, lets look back at 1985. The Bears were 13-0 coming to Miami. They had one of the best defenses the league had ever seen: the Buddy Ryan led 46 defense. It relied on Mike Singletary as the middle LB to be athletic and control the defense. The d-line's responsibility was to push up field. The other two linebackers were to create havoc by coming in behind the line. The safeties generally played up at the line in run support, but could blitz or drop into coverage. And you never knew which was coming. The corners covered man-man. Singeltary was the critical factor because he could be anywhere doing anything.

On offense, you had Sweetness (aka Walter Payton) and a somewhat weak passing game led by Jim McMahon. The Dolphins won that game by using Marino's skill to beat the 1-1 coverages and by using quick passing to move the ball. Mixing in some runs also helped to keep the defense off balance. Meanwhile, the Phins defensive game plan was simple: take Payton out of the game and haurang McMahon.

Enter the 2006 Bears. Their defensive coordinator is Ron Rivera, who was one of the LBs to play on the 46 under Buddy. He learned his skill well, and now uses Urlacher in the Singletary role, playing a modified 46 defense. Most teams can't deal with it. But, you may have noticed that last year's Bears lost to the Panthers in the playoffs. Why? Because Steve Smith got open in single coverage, and Delhomme was able to pass short; and the Bears had little offense to speak of.

In this past weekend's game, the game plan on Miami's defense was simple: disrupt Grossman's timing. Hit him as often as possible and knock him off the rhythm. And for the dbs to jump routes and be prepared to grab some balls. Certainly, after watching film of the Cardinals - Bears game, Miami saw that weakness they could explout.

On offense, Miami had a sort of secret weapon in Joey Harrington, who had played against the Bears twice a year for the last several. He may not have won much, but he knew what to expect. And Mike Mularkey came up with a pretty good game plan: lots of motion, a bunch of sweeps (some with a pulling tackle!), slip screens, and plenty of short passes. The line blocked well, and Miami was on a roll.

6 turnovers was enough to give Miami the slight edge, and in spite of a few seemingly critical turnovers, the offense moved the ball well enough to pull out a victory.

An impressive victory, no less. One that left me aghast. I did not think this team had it in them. Sure, it was certainly possible, because they're better than 1-6, but did I think they could do this? Nope.

My hat is off to them.
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