While 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.
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.
Zeitler holds him up for a moment—
—but then lets Wake break inside.
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.
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.
First of all, Dalton is very clearly looking left for either A.J. Green or Mohamed Sanu.
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.
While he’s staring Green down, he’s also missing Marvin Jones open across the middle.
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.
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.