(Our Chris Fischer covered the previous two Dolphin games on CBS-TV before their bye.)
Listening to sports talk radio while driving around South Florida and I noticed the calls from QB Matt Moore supporters have dissipated in the past three weeks.
While I realized then, it wasn’t what Matt Moore could do as the starting quarterback, so much as calls for change for what Ryan Tannehill wasn’t getting done. But where are the Tannehill detractors now?
This isn’t a chest beating “I told you so” about Tannehill. This is to point out, the Dolphins are a completely different team since Week 5. What’s made the difference, are the re-united starters on the offensive line.
“We were searching for an identity and they (Offensive Line) basically said ‘this is going to be our identity,’” coach Adam Gase said earlier this week.
Their impact has led to three distinct reasons the Dolphins are heading in to this showdown with the Jets on a two-game winning streak.
First, RB Jay Ajayi’s back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances are the most obvious points of pride.
Second, Tannehill has been sacked only once over the past two games (He was starting to leave body indentations on the field) and that is also related to point #1.
And third, the defense has received time to rest with the offense winning the Time of Possession battle. And that’s also related to point #1.
The success of the offensive line has come against two of the leagues’ best defenses in the Steelers and Bills. Sunday another strong defense will come to town, as the Jets bring their 4th rated rush defense to Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’s going to be about physicality, execution and all that wrapped in to one,” said continued Gase. “It’s going to be tough for us, there will not be an easy yard to be had against these guys.”
While it maybe tough treading, don’t expect Gase’s offense to deviate from Ajayi’s success as of late. The commitment to the run has been apparent over the past four games, whre only once has Tannehill thrown it more than 30 times.
“I think we have something good going right now,” said Tannehill. “We’ve seen what they (Offensive Line) could do the past two weeks both in the run and in pass protection. When those guys are rolling and set the tone early, it can set up for whatever we want to do.”
Tannehill maybe licking his chops for the opportunity to light up the Jets’ thirty-second ranked pass defense, but why? Ajayi is the guy the offense needs to go through right now. Not only will he have a “chance” to make history Sunday with a third 200-yard performance, but a chance to prove to the Dolphins he is the every down back that now retired Arian Foster couldn’t be.
A new identity, a new sense of optimism and an old rival, should make for some interesting sports talk radio on Monday.
“Mountaineer Shot” earns Dolphins K Sanders AFC honors
One of the great trick plays, not just of this NFL season but in recent pro football memory, has earned the Dolphins kicker who caught a touchdown pass Sunday AFC weekly honors.
The league announced Wednesday that kicker Jason Sanders, who became the first place-kicker to catch a touchdown pass in 42 years, is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week:
Special Teams Players of the Week (Week 13):
— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2019
Sanders also made his only field-goal attempt, as well as two extra points, earned the weekly honor for Miami’s 37 – 31 upset of the Eagles.
However, it is the play that is known as “Mountaineer Shot” that Sanders will forever be remembered for not just in Dolphin history, but NFL.
We wrote about the play on Monday, as head coach Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman implemented the direct snap to punter Matt Haack, while players were spread wide on either side of the formation.
Haack then, took the snap, rolled left and when the Eagles rushed at him, he flipped the ball to Sanders for the touchdown. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers. And, it’s something that Dolphins had been practicing regularly on and off for the past two months.
Furher, as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.
It is also the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that a punter has completed a touchdown pass to a kicker and the play will live on for years and years to come.
It is the second time that Sanders has won the AFC special teams player of the week award this season. He also got the honor for his two clultch 48 yard field goals in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins 16-12 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in November.
Dolphins fans still buzzing over “Mountaineer Shot” trick play
Move over, “Miami Miracle,” we now have a rival Dolphins trick play that will be talked about forever by fans and observers.
While it wasn’t the crazy lateral clinching play that Miami scored on with no time left to defeat the Patriots last December, “Mountaineer Shot,” as it’s known, is one of the wildest gadget plays to ever score a TD in the NFL. That’s because it involved the punter throwing to the kicker for a touchdown on a fake field goal.
It was the second quarter with the Dolphins trailing the Eagles 13 – 7, when Miami elected to kick a field goal (or so we thought) from Philadelphia’s 1-yard line.
That’s when dolphin punter Matt Haack lined up behind Center Daniel Kilgore with Miami spreading players to the right and the left. Then, what happened next was comical special teams touchdown, maybe in NFL history:
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 1, 2019
Haack’s first ever NFL completion was a forward option pitch to the kicker, Jason Sanders. And for good measure, it was Sanders first reception in his entire football career (dating back to high school) with the play stunning the Eagles and helping Miami pull off a 37 – 31 upset win.
Here was more on the play from David Wilson of the Miami Herald, including how long coach Brian Flores, special teams coach Danny Crossman and the players had been waiting to pull it out of the bag of tricks:
“We felt like that was a good time to run it,” coach Brian Flores said, and it gave us a spark….
“It was one of those plays Miami had been waiting weeks for the chance to run. Tight end Mike Gesicki said the Dolphins started working on it about two months ago and have been waiting weeks for the right opportunity to arise. Sunday finally presented such an opportunity….
“The gutsy call was just the latest in a line of gutsy calls by special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. In an October loss to the Buffalo Bills, Haack ran for a first down on a fake punt attempt. Last month, the Dolphins successfully executed a surprise onside kick in another loss to the Bills….
“The gutsy call was Crossman distilled to his mad-scientist essence.
“Danny Crossman is crazy. Like what is he dreaming up? This is the NFL,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “Like, that’s not—that doesn’t happen.”
Of course there is further irony that the Eagles famously ran their “Philly Special” play, which was an option pass to then-quarterback Nick Foles, for a touchdown in their upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.
So, teams have constantly been looking to get the Eagles on trick plays themselves.
This would include the Patriots having run a double pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who threw a touchdown against them in New England’s 17-10 victory couple of weeks ago at Philly.
Back to “Mountaineer Shot” on Sunday. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers.
And as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.
And, it is the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that our punter has thrown a touchdown pass to the kicker.
Oh, and the Fins have suddenly come to life with three wins in four games after and 0-7 start. And, it’s in part because the team is still playing hard for a coach and coaching staff that’s willing to take wild risks they did with “Mountaineer Shot,” Sunday.
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