Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Football 101

With respect to the Dolphins, the NFL, and CBS, I'd like to point out three plays in the game, and also to relive the moment Lance Shulters had in the game.

First, the Shulters moment:

Tom Brady threw a pass down the sideline. Shulters came over and had perfect coverage. He stuck his arms out, and appeared to cradle the ball. I remember Jimmy Cefalo saying 'and Shulters comes up with the interception...' while Rose and Mandich cheered. And a moment later Cefalo said '...but wait, he didn't (?!) and its going to go for a TD.'

This is what happens when luck turns against you. Plays don't go your way that seem so easy...

And now a couple of plays.

The key play in the game - though the game was already pretty much over - came when Maroney ran for his 51 yard run. Shulters - who was playing a deep zone to the bottom of the screen (but is out of the picture) was motioning, gesticulating, and otherwise yelling at Jason Allen that he was out of position. Allen is circled at the top of the screen. He is playing zone and covering the receiver at the top of the screen.

Except that he's out of position. I believe this was a "cover 1" where Shulters was the deep safety, and Allen was supposed to play more toward the line of scrimmage. This is supported by Shulters comments after the game. Basically, Allen was in the wrong scheme. His being out of position meant that there was no help once Maroney got through the line.

Next, lets look at the 59 yard TD run Maroney had.

From the endzone, you can see that Miami was in a good defense for a run, so they knew what was coming. All 11 players were up at the line and waiting. Except that they didn't execute. I've approximated what happened on the left side of the offensive line; apparently Miami thought this would be a run to the right, which it was not. And everyone on the left was blocked, and the guys on the right were too far away or ran into the fray and took themselves out of the play.

Probably, in this case, inexperience played a role, as 8 of the 11 players were not the starters two weeks ago.

Finally, lets take a look at the 4th down play just before the half, where Miami coulda/shoulda/woulda scored.

The playcall was decent, with a crossing route to the tight end, who was covered by a linebacker. One problem with the play: it was predictable because Miami has run it in this situation before. Another problem: Peele couldn't outmuscle or outrun the linebacker to get open. A third problem: Lemon looks for Peele the whole way. Look at his head. In the first shot, he's looking for Peele to make his break, and then he follows him the whole way until he makes the throw. Its no wonder the ball was batted away - even I could see where he was going to throw it!

He 'telegraphed' what he was going to do, and never 'looked off' (ie, looked away from) the intended receiver. Had he simply changed his focus for a moment to the receiver in the corner of the endzone, maybe he could have completed it. At least he would have had a better chance...

A look back

In National Football League lore, the Snowplow Game refers to a regular-season game played between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots on December 12, 1982.

Playing in a heavy snowstorm at New England's Schaefer Stadium, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the two teams remained scoreless late into the fourth quarter. With 4:45 left to go in the game and on-field conditions worsening, Patriots coach Ron Meyer summoned Mark Henderson, who was a convict on a work release program, and was the stadium's snowplow operator that afternoon - and in the face of furious protests from Miami coach Don Shula - was directed to veer off course and clear a spot on the field for placekicker John Smith, with Matt Cavanaugh putting down the hold. Henderson was released from prison a few years after the game, and currently works in the construction business.

Henderson's plow was actually a John Deere Model 314 tractor with a sweeper attached. When he was being interviewed by a TV reporter about the controversy, Henderson jokingly replied, "What are they gonna do, throw me in jail?" Smith's subsequent field goal gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead that held until the final gun. The following year, the NFL banned the use of snow plows on the field during a game. The moment will be an interactive feature of the new Hall at Patriot Place when it opens in 2008 next to Gillette Stadium.

---Source: Wikipedia

The Dolphins are on the clock

With the loss last weekend, Miami secured the first overall draft pick, besting their previous worst (uhh, yeah) from 2005.

Who will they take? Where is the position of need? Will they trade it? Answers will come in the near future...

In the meantime, it'll be fun to dream about how this guy or that guy can help the team...

The Tuna comes to town

His expected arrival is sometime on Thursday. He'll talk with the owner, the management, the coaches, and the team. He'll probably read the internal report. He undoubtedly will ask to see some game film.

And then the decisions start to be made. Among the first will be the future of one Cam Cameron. I, personally, do not believe that Cam will be back for a second season. I started to review the game splits to provide evidence as to why. But, I just didn't have the time to spend on it.

Here was the point I was planning to make: he was ineffective at time management. He often punted on 4th and short when his team was behind. He eschewed several long-range field goals that could have helped the team to fail forward fast. Winning 6 games by 3 points or less comes down to coaching. Getting blown out a few times comes down to coaching.

Next on the agenda will be a review of players. I suspect that 40% or more of the team will be turned over yet again. I'll go with the Nick philosophy that there are three categories of players: those that got it, those that are getting it, those who will never get it. I'll throw out some names in a future post.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Yup. The Dolphins lost. No surprise there. And *when* the Patriots finish the season undefeated, the Dolphins can look in the mirror and say they were 12.25% responsible for allowing it to happen.

They faced them twice this season, and put forth such a poor performance that they allowed their history to be obliterated. Now fans can no longer say "at least we were 17-0." It has no significance any longer. Too bad.

It helped that the Pats faced the Jets twice as well. 25% of their wins, then, came against crappy AFC East opponents. And 25% came against a weak AFC North. Ah, well, whatever.

...and I would like to point out that I continued the very fine tradition of not watching a single Patriots game this year. I made a commitment to myself to not watch them because of their tainted legacy, and I'm holding to that. Sure, they have a superior QB, and some talent that's better than any other team's. But, they bend the rules as far as they can, and its not right. And yes, other teams could and maybe should do the same, but they don't and it creates an uneven playing field.

For what its worth, I still believe there's a lot more to the story, and the NFL is very afraid that it will lose popularity if the truth came out.