MIAMI GARDENS — We can start with the notion that overall, the Dolphins outplayed and outcoached the Patriots, because well, it seems quite clear that’s exactly what Bill Belichick thought after Miami’s stunning 27-20 win on Monday night that was never really that close.
“It was a good job tonight by the Dolphins, coach Gase, staff, their team,” Belichick said. “They did a good job tonight. They obviously did a better job than we did. We just weren’t really good enough in any area, consistent enough in any area to win the game. So, all need to do a better job and hopefully we’ll be able to do that. It just wasn’t good enough tonight across the board.”
Gase, who has been critical of himself at times this season, was masterful. Gase found a play-calling rhythm and used tons of different formations and personnel groupings, leading to confusion for the Patriots defense.
“I thought Adam was dialing it up well tonight,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.
For example, in the first half, Gase used Kenyan Drake, Jarvis Landry, Jakeem Grant and MarQuies Gray all at running back. Of course Drake is the only traditional running back of that group.
At times Gase also utilized seldom-used Grant as a fourth receiver, and Gase was rewarded with one touchdown (and it should have been two, if not for a drop by Grant).
“We just moved some guys around,” Gase said. “We used some different personnel packages. When we get into a flow a little bit, it kind of makes it easier to get to those personnel groupings. I think, maybe tonight, (we) did it earlier in the series than what we had normally done. It worked out. Guys made plays.”
Gase downplayed his role, but it was key. There is so much talk about how hard the Patriots make things for opponents, with unforeseen wrinkles cast on a week-to-week basis. Here, Gase pulled out all the stops.
At times, Gase had an extra player stay in to block. Matt Moore was sacked seven times by the Patriots two weeks ago. Cutler was sacked twice.
“Just keep them guessing as far as what we were trying to do,” Gase said.
Gase also had Cutler operating out of a moving pocket, something Cutler is very comfortable with. The veteran also a fan of it since it limits the chances he’ll get hit in the ribs or head while a sitting duck.
“We were just trying to keep them a little bit off balance,” Gase said.
Exactly, exactly, exactly. These are things Gase is paid to do; develop and execute a plan that outsmarts the smartest opponents.
For defensive coordinator Matt Burke, redemption. His schemes worked splendidly, just two weeks after a Patriots route in which is seemed nothing worked.
Burke was aggressive, not passive. Burke smartly shadowed corner Xavien Howard on Brandin Cooks and Howard responded with two interceptions.
“We were locking them up,” cornerback Bobby McCain said. “Man-to-man. Me against you. Man-to-man defense and letting our front go rush.”
McCain said Burke and the staff did a good job in a full-unit meeting late last week, as defensive backs and defensive ends openly discussed, for example, what their roles on certain plays would be.
“We all came together and said, ‘Hey what’s your job?’ McCain said. “We learned the ins and outs of the defense is big. When a ‘DB’ knows who a ‘DE’ has, he knows where his strengths and his weaknesses are. We are coming together.”
Tom Brady and the Patriots were 0-for-11 on third down, which has never happened to Brady and the Patriots. It’s easy to understand why Burke was seen wildly pumping his fists as he walked off the field at Hard Rock Stadium on Monday night.
Miami’s defensive players corrected mistakes they were making too often earlier this season. And that’s a sign of some better coaching.
“All three phases playing together,” Gray, the tight end said. “Especially offense. We weren’t shooting ourselves in the foot like we’ve been doing all year. And defense doing a great job of attacking Brady, staying on him, frustrating him and it showed. Only one phase wasn’t going to win the game tonight. We put out a blueprint of what to do to stop them this year.”