Result: Complete to Lamar Miller on a RB “stab” route. 5 yard gain.
Defensive Formation: 4-2-5 (DL-LB-DB) Nickel, Cover 2
Offensive Formation: 3-1-1 (WR-RB-TE)
While the Falcons are a (Hybrid) 3-4 defense, they start the game in a nickel package, identifiable by the extra CB in the slot. This could have likely been the game plan due to the Phins obvious weight towards the pass in 2013. I like to differentiate between the nickel and the "4-2-5" defense. While the nickel is technically a 4-2-5 scheme, it typically uses a CB, whereas the 4-2-5 defense used an additional SS.While in the nickel sub package, the defense decides it is going to use a cover 2 with no LB blitzes. The LBs stack with the RDE and RDT due to Miller lining up on the weak side. They will be responsible for watching for the run and hitting the A or B gap respectively, or dropping into coverage given a HB free release. The perimeter CBs fake press alignment, but drop into an off-man coverage.
The safeties both play their deep zones and do not leave the perimeter CBs on an island. The Go route run by Damian Williams, and the Post route run by (assumedly) Brandon Gibson occupy both the CB’s and safeties. This requires the two linebackers and the slot CB to deal with the banana route Rishard Matthews was running, as well as the stab route Lamar Miller executed. This play used the TE to do some heavy motions. Sims starts on what ends up being the weak side, transitions to in-line blocking on the strong side, then drops back into strong side H-back, all before the snap. Take note of what is called a “Queen” call. This necessitates that the HB on the weak-side gets to free-release while the strong-side stays to pass protect. In this case, Sims plays the strong side, and even though he is an H-back, he chips the DE engaged with Ju’Waun James before releasing out into the flat and Lamar miller being the weakside back, gets the free release. Also note that the banana route was also pretty open. I would absolutely expect for that route to be the proper read if the WLB goes on a blitz. Dion Sims comes pretty open as well in the flat after chipping the DE, but the ball is already gone. This is the check down route. If the other routes are not open, look for Tannehill to scramble right and hit the TE safety valve. The defense had to be relatively confused by the joker style TE motion.
Tannehill took a three step drop from shotgun and released the ball in 2.4 seconds from the snap.
Result: Lamar Miller Run, gain of 2 yards
Defensive Formation: 4-2-5 Nickel
Offensive Formation: 3-1-1
On the second play of the drive, The Dolphins came out in the same formation as they did in play 2, but without the TE motion. Additionally, I am fairly certain that the team's intent was to run the read option on this play. Heres why:
Brandon Albert ignoring the RDE to double team chip the DT with Colladge and then moving to the second level is a pretty clear indication that the Phins were executing the read option. What does not make a lot of sense is that Tannehill did not decide to keep the ball. Now, I've seen enough of his college tape to know he understands how to read the DE on the read option. If the DE moves inside, keep the ball, if he stays outside let your HB run the zone read and likely hit the B gap for a decent pickup. The DE does move in, but Tannehill hands the ball off. It is possible that in preseason game 1 they didn't want him to take off (yet). This play never really gained traction though because of that incorrect read (or possibly purposeful incorrect read), as the DE is ready and waiting on the edge and gets his hands on Miller as he hits the B gap. There is the idea that Lamar could have cut outside of the DE, however I believe that would have ended in a loss of yards ultimately. The DE was on the hash marks, in perfect position to accelerate into the back field or slow Miller down in the gap.
Really, most of the OL looked poor on this play. Ju'Wuan James kept his guy under control (with help from Sims), but Dallas Thomas looked lost at the second level. He should have been engaging the free SLB, who is looking to shoot the hole behind Soliai.
Samson Satele did not execute his block effectively either. In the image above, you can see that Satele is matched up with Paul Soliai and is squared up. This may at first look like decent blocking (considering the opponent) but Satele's role is not to simply square up with the DT. His role is to pull him away from the B gap, so that the DT cannot get his hands on Miller to slow him down from making a cut left. In this, Satele fails. Instead, Satele has poor leverage and his pad level is indicative of being pushed back. He needed to get low, and adjust Soliai into the opposite A gap. As soon as Soliai notices Miller hitting the left A gap, he disengages enough to get a shoulder on Miller. Paired with the DE's half tackle, was more than enough to call the play dead. Colledge and Albert did a good job blocking on this play. Colledge was able to push his DT into the second level, clearing out space for Miller to make a cut outside of Albert who was engaged at the second level with the WLB. Albert does lose engagement with the LB, but he does so inside. If Albert is to allow any kind of disengagement, it has to be to the inside so that the play can continue to the outside for Miller to be 1-on-1 in space with the perimeter CB (#21) after Damien Williams blocks the FS.
Result: Brandon Gibson 7 yard gain on a bubble screen.
Defensive Formation: 4-2-5 Nickel, Cover 3
Offensive Formation: 3-1-1, Shot Gun Double Wing right motioned to Trips Right. Strongside on backside.
Dolphin fans saw plenty of bubble screens last year (maybe not in number, but they seemed to be the only screen they used), but this year, they're using a more complicated approach to the bubble screen. They start the play with the TE Dion Sims and WR Brandon Gibson on the left, but soon motion Gibson to the inside slot (the slot was already occupied) to go from the Double Wing formation to a Trips right. The Falcons LB's are surely trying to communicate play assignments. You see, at the start of this play, the linebackers have to notice that the strong side is off the LT. That LB is typically the WLB, but in this particular moment he is the SLB. Then the motion occurs. Dion Sims is still off the LT, marking it the strong side but Gibson moving over is a indication of "play side". Since the Falcons came out in a Nickel set, all three WR's on the play side have a DB hat on them, which leaves the LBs to focus on the possibility of the run. Lamar Miller in the backfield play side, with Ryan Tannehill in the shot gun, indicates to them that a zone or stretch play could be coming their way. That concept is almost cemented to them when the play action occurs.
The Falcons defense bites pretty hard on the play action. Note that the LBs, and the SS are all keying in on Lamar Miller. CB#21 was playing zone, evidenced by not following Gibson in motion. The CB on the opposite perimeter has decided to turn his hips in possible anticipation of a Go route.With the SS in the box, that CB only has a single high safety behind him if he missteps. I marked the OL because I wanted to point out the way they are selling the play action. If Miller were to actually run this ball, he could easily gain 4-5 yards (more if he breaks a tackle). Albert would need to pull his DE to the edge a little better, but notice how the TE chipped and is now heading into the second level. The play mandated that the OL flow left, leaving the open LDE on a free path to the backfield, but it really sold the LBs and the SS.
The Dolphins could have run this play more cleanly. While the P.A. bootleg certainly confused the defense, it also possibly took too long to develop, which resulted in Gibson's situation in the snapshot above. This is something the Phins can iron out in a number of ways and I expect it to be fixed.
Result: Rishard Matthews 36 Yard Completion (17 yards in air, 19 yards YAC)
Defensive Formation: 4-2-5 Nickel,
Offensive Formation: 3-1-1, Shot Gun P.A. Trips Left, strong side right.
Atlanta really came into this game utilizing the Nickel package and they once again use it here. The Dolphins have a clear mismatch advantage with their trips left alignment. The defense has a CB (Alford) going against Dion Sims who gets a free release. Atlanta is lacking a man in coverage on Matthews (their SS is there, but he is acting as the WLB on this play and is in zone coverage over the short middle). Once Alford realizes there are no receiving or running threats for his zone, he picks up pursuit after Matthews (as does Worrilow in the same situation), but it is too late.
Rishard Matthews splits the zone
Brandon Albert did not do a great job in pass protection on this play. Tannehill got the ball out in 2.56 seconds (slightly slower than last year's average), but had he held on to it for 2.8 seconds, this may have resulted in a sack. Either way, I like my LT to block for at least 3 seconds, and not allow his inside shoulder to roll.
Result: Brandon Gibson 6 yard TD on Flat route
Defensive Formation: 4-2-5 Nickel, Goal line Single High Safety.
Offensive Formation: 3-1-1, Shot Gun P.A. Trips left
Very interesting that the Falcons would come out again in Nickel in goal line. Albeit, it is a bit different, than before. Its essentially man coverage except for the FS. Again, the Dolphins came out in their 3-1-1 set, with a pseudo trips left alignment. I say pseudo because of the motion. Gibson motions out of the inside slot, comes back, then motions out of it again. Lazor loves himself some complex motions. Simply put, the Falcon defenders responsible for watching for the run fell for the play action again as demonstrated below:
The SS, and both LBs didn't even look Gibson's way until they realized Miller didn't have the ball. This is proper defense, don't get me wrong, they should be reading inside before outside, but this is what contributes to Lazor's scheme being successful on this play. The FS is in high zone coverage and theres no way this defense can possibly stop Gibson, save for a sack (which would have been appalling).
The Dolphins opening drive was very successful. They showed WCO and vertical spread elements. We didn't show too many run concepts here, but they are using a ton of zone and stretch reads. The A gap is being underutilized, but that is actually ok for now. While they demonstrated the ability to be incredibly multiple with the 3-1-1 offense personnel grouping (and had success with it), they should look to not rely on it for the entire drive.
Thanks for reading and come back soon as we continue to break down key plays and individual performances via tape and advanced statistics.