Chalkboard: How Andy Dalton Got Sacked in OT against Miami

DaltonSafetyCoverWhile it’s been a week since the Miami Dolphins upset the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football, a lot of the actual game has been lost in the tumult of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin imbroglio.

The play we’re looking at today is the one which ended the game—the sack by Cam Wake of Andy Dalton in overtime.

This had not been Dalton’s best game—all the more shocking given the tear he had been on the previous few weeks. Dalton seemed out of sync with his receivers, held the ball too long and made some very poor decisions when he did get the ball out.

The Dolphins did an excellent job keeping him under pressure.

In overtime of the 20-20 game, the Dolphins had pinned the Bengals back on their own eight yard line. Dalton had thrown two incomplete passes before the final play. Miami brought five pass rushers on the first play, but only three on second down, choosing instead to blanket the receivers.

After two failed passes, Dalton was faced with a 3rd-and-10 in his own end—not the best situation to be in. We can debate the wisdom of the first two plays all we want—personally I think they were questionable at best—but regardless, the Bengals were in a hole.

The Bengals, having to throw, set up with four receivers wide and Cedric Peerman the lone running back.

Presnap

Meanwhile, the Dolphins aren’t trying to hide anything—they’re coming for Dalton, hard. He’s going to need to get the ball out quickly if he’s to avoid a fatal sack.

On top of that, the secondary is largely playing well off the receivers. They don’t care about the short pass on 3rd-and-long—they don’t want to get beat deep.

In the end the Dolphins only rush five, but the Bengals’ offensive line is immediately on its heels.

Wake slides over to engage with second year guard Kevin Zeitler.

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Zeitler holds him up for a moment—

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—but then lets Wake break inside.

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Instead of controlling and maneuvering Wake where he wants him to go, he allows Wake to dictate where his path will be. Leaning into the block as Zeitler does, he lacks the leverage to hold Wake and on top of it, he hasn’t shifted with Wake and is no longer in front of him.

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Since we don’t know the call and responsibilities on the field it’s hard to kill Zeitler too much—he might have expected help from Peerman, who stepped up to the right to hold off another incoming Dolphin.

However, his technique looks pretty shoddy and he was just plain overmatched by the quicker and stronger Wake.

Meanwhile, Dalton may have very little time to react to all this, but he compounds Zeitler getting beat in several ways.

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First of all, Dalton is very clearly looking left for either A.J. Green or Mohamed Sanu.

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It’s probably Green, since Sanu is open very quickly and Dalton is obviously waiting for whomever he is looking at to break free—Green is well covered during the play. On top of it his route takes him right into the teeth of the coverage covering tight end Jermaine Gresham.

It’s safe to assume that perhaps the read is Sanu and that Green and Gresham are supposed to clear coverage out. Again though, this play needs to come off quickly and Dalton needs to see up front that there is no way he will have the time to wait for that play to develop.

postsnapYou can see Dalton is sacked and all three receivers are still covered.

While he’s staring Green down, he’s also missing Marvin Jones open across the middle.

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It could be that by the time Jones really got separation that Dalton is already about to get creamed by Wake, but I question the logic of going deep—a pattern you have to wait on—when you’re at your own eight yard line in an obvious passing situation.

It seems to me—and of course, this is speculation—that Dalton would see Wake and the Dolphins preparing tobring the house and adjust to a quicker route.

Get the first and keep going down the field. You have time, there’s no need to go for it all.

Of course, we can ask a similar question of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. You have six minutes. Why go for it all on every down?

This was one of the worst series of play selections I saw all weekend and I still can’t figure why anyone would call the plays Gruden did in that position.

The second, and more important point is, Dalton cannot take that sack. Even if he thought he was out of the end zone, he has to get rid of the ball or move out of the pocket.

He has a second—albeit a split-second—where he can step to his right and stretch the play out.

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Instead he turtles and gives up the sack.

The best case scenario is you end up punting from the one. The field position—and here again is the problem I have with the play selection—is going to be great for the Dolphins.

You can’t do that in overtime. You just can’t.

Well, you can—but it ends much like it did in this game.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

NFL Week 9: What We Learned

It’s all downhill from here.

We’ve moved past the halfway point for the 2013 NFL season and there’s a lot of information to sift through.

One thing is certain: we don’t know as much as we know.

What do I know?

  • It’s going to be a dogfight for the AFC wild cards. Assuming the Bengals, Colts and Patriots hold their divisions and assuming that neither Kansas City no Denver collapses, you’ve got five of six spots pretty well secured. Leaving one spot for the Jets, Dolphins, Browns, Titans and Chargers to go after. The Jets have to cushiest schedule but are the most inconsistent. But anything can happen, so hang on.
  • Given the injuries the Packers and Bears are dealing with, the Lions are the favorite for the NFC North title. It’s going to come down to consistency and getting out of their own may. The Lions have not been penalized as much as they have in years past—57 flags through eight games at a rate of 7 per game puts them just in the top ten for most penalized—and they have to continue to improve if they want to lock this down. They have a chance to beat the Bears and Packers for the title if they play smart football over the second half of the season.
  • Adults can be bullied. As much as we don’t want to believe it (or some don’t), it happens. We shouldn’t be blaming the victim—it’s a bad look.
  • Speaking of Miami specifically, what a disaster. Even taking away the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess, this team has looked a bit rudderless. They have a solid running back in Lamar Miller who they have only just started giving more than a dozen carries and still won’t give him a full load—despite a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. The offensive line was a disaster before they lost two of their starters and their big money receiver—Mike Wallace—has been completely ineffective.  If they were winning, the other stuff would seem trivial. Now? It looks symptomatic.
  • The chickens could be coming home to roost in Green Bay. For a long time there have been concerns—primarily among national media but occasionally among fans—that having unproven or just flat out bad backups behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a bad idea. The Packers were willing to gamble since Rodgers is one of the tougher guys out there, but now that he’s out with a fractured collarbone, and now that we’ve seen Seneca Wallace play, it has to be a concern. As we’ve discussed when Jay Cutler and other quarterbacks have gone out with injury the pickings are slim in free agency and the trade deadlines are past. We expect GM Ted Thompson to pull some magic out of his bag of tricks, but while the rest of the team seems to be fine with “next-man-up” talent, quarterback is too important a position. If the team collapses it will highlight one of the rare times when Thompson has failed to find talent to develop.
  • Coaching is rough. Media and fans both get on coaches about failings on the field but few people realize how much of a grind the job is. Denver’s John Fox and Houston’s Gary Kubiak both ending up in the hospital in one weekend is a reminder, as was the sad situation with Andy Reid’s son not long ago. Ultimately, criticism comes with the job, but it’s important to remember how much these guys put into their jobs and the toll it takes on them and their family.
  • I don’t know what to make of the Bengals, Jets or Browns. I’m having a hard time buying the Chiefs.  The Panthers are proving to be the contender I thought they might be in preseason.
  • Andrew Luck is a damned fine quarterback. Eddie Lacy should have been the first running back in the 2013 NFL draft. The rookie quarterbacks this year are just as inconsistent and raw as I expected them to be.
  • Everyone says “Wait until Seattle is on the road, then we’ll see how bad they are” but they’re 47-1 on the road. So what are we waiting for?
  • Even the Jacksonville Jaguars look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and say “Oh man, that’s bad.”
  • The last few years have seen some great quarterback classes and all indications are that 2014 will have another stellar crop. This year seems to be the year of the running back though. Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard and Zac Stacy are all performing well—Lacy and Stacy especially the last two games, though I suspect if the Bengals gave Bernard 20 carries, he’d be right there with them. That said, it’s going to be the rare back worth a first round pick—with Trent Richardson and David Wilson’s struggles, it doesn’t seem to be worth the risk to grab a back in the first round. Bernard and Lacy were second round picks, Stacy was grabbed in the fifth. Add in Andre Ellington, who is going to have a strong second half of the season and was a sixth round pick and, if you have a good scouting department, you can grab value anywhere.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back later in the week to highlight the Thursday night matchup as well as break some plays down with the All-22 coach’s tape.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

What We Saw: Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins

image via NFL.com

Just when you think you know the Cincinnati Bengals and Andy Dalton, they play like they did last night.

Losing 22-20 in overtime on a safety has to be pretty deflating for a team which some were saying had finally “arrived” and could possibly contend for the Super Bowl.

It’s the opposite for the Miami Dolphins who, on top of the Jonathan Martin bullying flap, were seen as a team in turmoil, spiraling out of control after a promising start to the season.

A lot of people walked into this game assuming a Bengals win. Not many thought that the chaotic Dolphins would really give the Bengals a game.

It certainly didn’t turn out to be anything like what we expected.

It was, in many ways, the tale of two quarterbacks.

via SBNation.com

Dalton, coming off three straight 300-yard plus games, was being talked about as having finally reached his potential. The questions of his vertical accuracy and his arm strength were being put aside and with the myriad weapons around him, he looked hard to stop.

Last night was a complete regression for him. The offensive line had some issues protecting him—he was sacked five times, including the game-ending safety—and under the intense pressure Dalton seemed to wilt. He made some awful decisions which resulted in four turnovers (three picks and a fumble), held the ball too long and generally looked completely out of sync with his receivers.

image via CTSport.com

The Miami Dolphin’s Ryan Tannehill wasn’t spectacular but played a much smarter brand of football and took care of the ball. That may seem like damnation by faint praise, but given he turned the ball over four times in the last two games, it’s a big step.

He still looks like he and receiver Mike Wallace are not on the same page and he actually looked like he missed injured receiver Brandon Gibson, but he didn’t make mistakes.

That lack of mistakes made a big difference.

We also saw two of the most underutilized running backs in the NFL today. At least in terms of Miami’s Lamar Miller, the team seemed more willing to lean on him.

image via sportsworldreport.com

They still have an unhealthy fascination with Daniel Thomas (who is just painful to watch run the ball) but Miller continues to show everyone how good he is, despite a poor fumble on a big run.

Miller needs to work on his vision as that play in particular showed he had a lot of wide open space which he didn’t see and should have.

The Bengals still won’t use Giovani Bernard to run the ball frequently enough.

They have him on the field more than BenJarvus Green-Ellis (48% of the plays vs. 42%) and a ton on third downs (which accounts for the consistent targets) but they don’t run him nearly as much as Green-Ellis.

image via fansided.com

It seems insane that Bernard has carried the ball just 81 times to Green-Ellis’ 131 carries when Green-Ellis’ yards-per-carry is 3.2 on the year and Bernard’s is 4.5. Or given that he ran the ball in for two scores during Thursday’s game.

Bernard left the game with a rib injury, which may have led to a head-scratching decision late in the game to throw a bomb on 3rd and 4 instead of just running the ball.

Running the ball kills the clock and possibly gets you a first down and a closer field goal. At worst, you end up in the same spot.

You can appreciate the desire to go for the kill, but the Bengals left too much clock on the board considering how easily the Dolphins were moving the ball.

That left Tannehill time to get the team close enough for the tying field goal and send the game into overtime.

Which eventually put the ball back in Dalton’s hands on the one, where he held onto it too long one last time.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

3 Questions about: Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins

image via NFL.com

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a tremendous win over the New York Jets and are colliding with a Miami Dolphins team which has appeared on the ropes for four straight weeks now.

The Miami Dolphins need to win to stay a viable contender in the AFC East.

The Bengals would like to put more distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC North, perhaps proving they belong in the upper echelon of NFL teams this season.

It’s a critical AFC matchup with two teams going in opposite directions. Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s game.

image via CBSSports.com

  • Can the Dolphins protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill? The offensive line allowed Tannehill to be sacked six times last week—in one half. Add the two they allowed to the Buffalo Bills and that’s eight sacks in two games. This team has allowed Tannehill to be hit 48 times, 32 of which resulted in sacks (most sacks in the league according to NFL.com). Now they lose Jonathan Martin due to an emotional breakdown and while he hasn’t played all that well, can you afford to lose anyone on a line this shallow and bad? Tannehill also needs to get rid of the ball but the offensive line has to start playing better.

image via USAToday.com

  • Andy Dalton had a tremendous week against the New York Jets, throwing for 325-yards and five touchdowns against one of the better defenses in the league, though clearly one with some issues in the secondary. The Dolphins have a tough front seven and some OK defensive backs—can Dalton continue to build on his success from the last three weeks? In that span he has thrown for 1,034-yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Has he finally proved his doubters wrong?

image via CBSSports.com

  • Can Mike Wallace start living up to his contract? He’s only costing the Dolphins $3.25 against the cap this year but jumps to $17.25 next year. So far it appears as if even the cap hit this year is way too much money. Wallace is catching only 46.9% of his targets right now, has dropped several passes and is tied for 70th with just four plays of 20 yards or more according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. He needs to step it up as much as Tannehill and the offense need to get him involved.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.