The 4-9 New York Jets hosted the 8-5 Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey. The following is my reaction to the game after watching the game live Saturday?! and then re-watching it in its entirety Monday morning. Slight tweak to the usual line-up. The Narrative throughout the week and closing thoughts sections remain the same, however, instead of a narrative based approach re-living the game chronologically, I have instead gone with just a 'Film Study' section. Analysis is followed by a pre-snap look with the play call which is followed by a gif of the play. Go follow me on twitter @TomLikeFootball. Tweet @ me your thoughts and comments on the game.
N.B. If you have slow internet connect you may want to leave the article load for 3-5 minutes. This should allow the gifs to fully load.
Narrative throughout the week
A divisional match up in your opponents building is always a difficult match up, no matter what the opposing teams record may be. The Jets are a far cry from the team they were last season despite not much turn over on their roster. The Dolphins were unsure which Jets would turn up, especially considering the number of Jets players listed as 'questionable.' The following are the narratives that emerged throughout the week and building up to the game on Saturday (!).
- The Miami Dolphins placed Pro-Bowl Center Mike Pouncey on IR Tuesday. Many fans instantly began to question the Centers durability and whether Miami should move on from Pouncey after handing him a large contract prior to the 2015 season. Since that $52.15m ($22m guaranteed) contract, Pouncey has started 19 of a possible 30 games and has not completed a full season since 2012. Pouncey is a huge asset at the Center position and I believe Miami should allow him to fully re-hab his hip this offseason and give him a shot next season. Pouncey is a phenomenal run blocker and it's no coincidence that Miami's best rushing performances were when Pouncey was under Center. He also knows the play book inside out and helps out Ryan Tannehill in calling protections.
- The Dolphins decided to drop Pouncey's replacement Anthony Steen (who has been poor the past few weeks) and instead went with Kraig Urbik. This was a controversial decision as many wondered whether Urbik would be an upgrade over Steen or a potential liability at Center.
- The biggest story line by far throughout the week was Miami's QB situation. Results showed that Ryan Tannehill's injury was better than first presumed with many relieved that he had not torn his ACL/ MCL. This is great news as it means Tannehill should be around in the offseason to get in some crucial time as he looks to learn the nuances and ins and outs of Adam Gase's playbook.
- Matt Moore starting occupied a lot of air time and column space as many wondered how much of a downgrade he would be, or as some argued, an upgrade, compared to Ryan Tannehill. I wrote this in last weeks concluding thoughts: "Matt Moore loves to take risks, we all know that... Matt Moore right now is a much safer option than a rookie QB playing for the first time. Moore has played in the NFL and is used to calling plays in the huddle. He has worked closely with Gase and Tannehill this season and although he may not be a starting caliber Quarterback in the NFL, he is an able back up who should not throw away crucial games for Miami."
- Many, myself included, spoke at length about how well RB Jay Ajayi and the other skill position playmakers will need to perform for Miami if they are to win these last three games. Against the Jets in particular, Ajayi would face a difficult task as the Jets have an imposing Front Seven. The secondary has been awful most of the season, however, the one thing this Jets team does well is stopping the opposing teams run game.
- The Jets injury concerns and Bryce Petty playing at QB were other talking points throughout the week.
Jets 1st TD, Robby Anderson 40 yard reception
The Dolphins are in the nickel and they are going to bring the nickel CB Bobby McCain on a blitz from the Left Side. The Dolphins are playing 1 deep safety and Kiko Alonso will become a spy as the TE he is covering stays to block. This play results in a TD because Dolphins Safety Bacarri Rambo (red) is burnt by WR Robby Anderson. Anderson throws a stutter step into his route which causes Rambo to slow down. Anderson then outruns Rambo in a foot race and turns on his blistering speed to evade Michael Thomas and put the Jets 7-0 up.
Horrible decision by Moore
This was a well designed play by Gase which was designed to create confusion in the secondary and give Moore the possibility to throw deep to Kenny Stills (red). Stills from the slot should be wide open deep, if the corners bite down on Landry or Parker or if they do not pass off their receivers in zone coverage. The Jets do however, cover Stills, they double cover him in fact... yet Moore still throws the ball deep into double coverage. This should have been an INT.
19 yard pass to TE MarQueis Gray
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Dion Sims 1 yard TD catch
The Dolphins love using this formation close to the end zone. It has resulted in a Touchdown against the Steelers, Chargers and 49ers. This is the first time Gase dials up a pass play, and the play action mixed with both TEs and the FB initiating blocking is designed to fool the Jets into thinking its a Jay Ajayi run. The TEs and Williams the FB break off their blocks and run into the end zone while Moore swings right where he is hoping to find a wide open Jay Ajayi. The Jets correctly sniff out this play, however, an incredible pin point throw on the run and an excellent catch from Dion Sims turn this into a Dolphins TD.
Cam Wake Interception (1st of his career)
Defensive Co-ordinator Vance Joseph loves dropping off a Defensive Linemen into coverage and bringing an OLB on a blitz. Almost a 'mini' zone-blitz, Joseph at times calls this play too regularly, however, its successful application resulted in a Jordan Phillips INT when the Jets played in Miami earlier in the season. To confuse a young QB, Wake drops back into coverage and spies the QB while Jenkins and Alonso blitz; Petty simply does not see Wake sitting in coverage and throws the ball right at the Dolphins DE. The Dolphins are playing man coverage with a single high safety and therefore Petty does not expect to see someone sitting in zone coverage, let alone a DE he previously thought was coming after him as a pass rusher.
Isa Abdul-Quddus' Sack
The Dolphins this time went full zone blitz as two pass rushers dropped back into coverage while Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus came flying through the C-gap as the two DTs crashed left with OLB Jelani Jenkins blitzing through the B-Gap. The Protection does not account for the Safety Blitz and the RB is late with his adjustment leaving IAQ unblocked as he smashes into Bryce Petty's blindside. I like the use of zone blitzes in certain situations to confuse the young QB as he unsure who is dropping off and who is coming. Great scheming by Defensive Co-Ordinator Vance Joseph.
Big stop on 4th&1
This is old school football. 8 on 8 and let the team with the biggest punch win the crucial yard. This is a tremendous play by Kiko Alonso as he shoots the A Gap untouched and manages to hit the RB in the backfield forcing him to try and leap for the marker as the Dolphins D-Line has driven the Offensive Line backwards. This one is not about Xs and Os but football players being instinctive and making big time plays.
Kenny Stills 52 yard TD catch
The Dolphins are in a crucial 3rd&9 just before half time. The possession before, the New York Jets brought everyone on the blitz and caused Moore to panic and throw the ball away. Adam Gase suspecting that Todd Bowles will call a similar play due to the same down and distance decides to keep a TE and RB in to help block. He then gives Matt Moore two options for a deep ball and shot at a Touchdown with speedster Kenny Stills and big play threat DeVante Parker crossing routes. If they both beat their man coverage then the single high Safety will only be able to pick one to cover, leaving the other open for a big chunk play. If the pressure comes too quickly and both have not uncovered in time then Jarvis Landry should be open over the middle for a 1st down check down. Matt Moore LOVES to take risks and shots deep and here successfully exploits the single high safety for a big Miami TD.
This was also Kenny Stills 3rd TD catch of 50+ yards (the most by a Miami Dolphin since 1986)!
Ugly Matt Moore Interception
The New York Jets are daring Matt Moore to take a shot deep on this play. Single high safety (something Moore loves to see) with DeVante Parker matched up one-on-one (Red box) and effectively on an island outside against press coverage... I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea for New York, but all Moore wants Parker to do is use his big frame to beat the CB off the line of scrimmage and then accelerate down field, where even if he hasn't burnt the corner (which he does anyway) he can use his size to high point the football for a big yardage play. Everything goes exactly as Gase and Moore must have foresaw. Parker runs the go route perfectly, beats the CB off the line and is 2-3 strides ahead of man coverage with no safety help down the sideline. The only thing that goes wrong? Moore chucks a horribly under thrown ball right into the arms of the Corner instead of in stride down the sideline for a Parker TD.
Dion Sims 1 yard TD catch
After two unsuccessful runs from the 1 yard line, the Dolphins elect to throw on 3rd down. The play is designed to eliminate the Jets loaded front by changing the point of release as the entire Dolphins O-Line shifts right while Moore rolls out to the right. The hot route here is Damien Williams (Red), however, Moore ends up throwing across his body as Dion Sims emerges in a vacuum in the back of the end zone as the Jets coverage totally breaks down.
Jarvis Landry 66 yard TD catch
Adam Gase dials up a 'Levels' concept route here where he's trying to create holes in the coverage if the Jets are in zone. If the Jets are playing man then Gase is hoping that Moore can spot the receiver which uncovers and creates separation. If Jarvis Landry (Red) or DeVante Parker (Yellow) manage to get open then they should get the ball with just a single safety to beat. This is a different way of attacking a single high safety (rather than the various go/ post routes) we saw Gase use earlier. Jarvis Landry manages to uncover and then turn on the burners to take the ball 66 yards to the house for a huge Dolphins TD. The Dolphins had 3 TDs in just 4 minutes and effectively put this game to bed half way through the 3rd Quarter.
Neville Hewitt Sack
Another Zone Blitz designed to confused the young QB Bryce Petty. DT's Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips are dropping back into coverage while DEs Jason Jones and Mario Williams will crash inside. It is this crash inside combined with the DTs which draw the Tackle's attention inside, leaving CB Xavien Howard (Red) and OLB Neville Hewitt (Yellow) with a free lane to the QB. Howard gets picked up by the RB but Hewitt makes a B-Line for Petty and picks up the big sack. Very similar to the IAQ sack earlier in the game as Vance Joseph uses creative play calling to confuse the Jets young QB.
Ndamukong Suh & Cam Wake sandwich
Who thought it was a good idea to leave both Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh unblocked? No analysis needed, just appreciate the carnage.
The Miami Dolphins are now 9-5 and Adam Gase has delivered fans a winning season on his first attempt (only other Dolphins coaches to achieve this are Don Shula, Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saban and Tony Sparano). Matt Moore finished the game with an impressive box score of 12 off 18, 4 TDs, 1 INT and an impressive 236 yards (13.1 average). He had a rating of 126.2 and was an incredible 6-for-7 for 158 yards on passes targeted 10-plus yards down the field. Moore was everything we thought he would be: An able back up, showcased great knowledge of the play book, had a veteran presence about him, was not afraid to take a shot deep, however, his inconsistencies showed up when he gambled on deep balls. Yet this was still an incredibly positive display from the Dolphins QB and Miami should be in safe hands for the final two games of the season (lets just look at who is number 1 on the depth chart in Houston, Jacksonville, Denver and other places around the league).
I thought Xavien Howard played great and looked like a savvy veteran out there with his subtle hand placement in coverage. He also went toe-to-toe with Brandon Marshall and won as he was physical on the line of scrimmage jamming the Jets tall receiver. Kiko Alonso is looking like a steal in the trade with Philadelphia. Yet again he was flying around all over the place and came up with some crucial stops in run support and continued his impressive display in coverage this season. I need to once again commend DTs Jordan Phillips and Earl Mitchell as Vance Joseph is getting excellent production out of the rotation next to Suh. Ndamukong Suh and Cam Wake are playing some of the best football of their careers and have both earned Pro-Bowls this season. Andre Branch played well and this Dolphins D-Line is consistently gaining penetration and disrupting opposing game plans. Tony Lippett is showing those WR instincts and has become somewhat of a ball hawk in the Dolphins secondary. He is young, raw and has a bright future if he can continue to develop. TE Dion Sims is looking more and more like that reliable check down target that the Adam Gase Offense utilises. I also thought Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry were phenomenal today and were a big part of Moore's success.
This was a great team win and the Dolphins look to be in capable hands under Head Coach Adam Gase. Although Vance Joseph has a tendency to overcomplicate scheme at times, he has managed to get a lot out of this Defense which is below average in every position outside of the Defensive Line (as Reshad Jones is out injured). The Dolphins at 9-5 are currently in play off mode where their results against Buffalo and New England will decide whether or not Miami will play January football this season. The Bills team Miami will face Saturday is different to the one they played a few months back. The team has rallied around Rex Ryan and is playing to keep him in the job. It is going to be a difficult ask for Adam Gase and co., however, if Miami can get it together upfront and the playmakers can uncover quickly to give Matt Moore quick reads, there is no reason why Miami cannot hit 10 wins for the first time 2,922 days. Fins Up!
On to Buffalo.