Dolphins ponder game plan as they brace for winter weather at Bills

Adam Gase called the conditions in Buffalo last week “crazy” for play calling. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—Matt Burke was the linebackers coach for the Lions when they played in a game at Philadelphia that was so snowy the players could barely see downfield. When he finally got off the field at the end of that frigid afternoon, he turned one of his fellow coaches and said of the nearly unplayable field conditions, “Man, that’s never gonna happen again.”

Things that always happen again, though, and they did last week at Buffalo. The Bills and Colts plodded through heavy snow and temperatures in the low 30s to a 13-7 Buffalo victory in overtime, and the Dolphins might encounter similar weather at New Era Field on Sunday.

If that’s the case, it’ll certainly change the entire makeup of a game both teams desperately need in the playoff chase. The Bills are currently the No. 6 seed at 7-6, and the Dolphins are one game behind them.

The current forecast calls for up to 3 inches of snow Friday, another 3 inches Saturday, followed by a high temperature of 33 degrees with 10 percent chance of precipitation Sunday, per Weather.com. There is snow projected for early next week as well.

When Dolphins coach Adam Gase tried to watch the film of the game, it was difficult to make out jersey numbers and other details through the snowfall. Yard lines were barely visible in the second quarter.

“When you watch guys, I mean, just nobody’s going anywhere,” Gase said. “When I started watching the game it was like stoppage of play and it just kept building up and nobody was moving in it. The first time you saw a guy running out of the huddle, he’s taking huge strides.”

Here’s are some screencaps of the coaches’ film he attempted to parse:

When Gase was asked by the Buffalo media today what he got out of that footage, as well as it being an anomaly of a game, he replied, “Nothing.”

When he saw how difficult it was for players to even accelerate into a sprint in the snow, it got him thinking about what he’d have to do if Miami encounters that Sunday.

“I started thinking, ‘Wow. What would I be calling?’” Gase said. “I thought what both sides were doing, they had some good stuff. Indy had a couple really nice plays that used it to their advantage, and so did Buffalo. You have an idea of what you should do, but until you’re in that situation, you’re probably learning as the game goes on.”

What teams usually do is run the ball. The Colts and Bills combined to run on 97 of 136 plays (71 percent) and neither topped 92 yards passing. Buffalo completed 7 of 16 passes, and the Colts averaged a whopping 2.8 yards per pass play.

One guy who didn’t have much trouble in the conditions was LeSean McCoy, who chugged along for 156 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. That’s one reason Burke doesn’t think a heavy snowfall would be an advantage for his defense.

“I get it where on the surface it looks like a low-scoring game and all that,” Burke said. “One of the issues defensively is you’re reacting to what an offense is doing, and especially a guy like McCoy that’s got really good balance—that’s probably one of his better assets as an athlete—he knows where he’s cutting and how to make those moves. And as a defender, you’re reacting to that and it’s harder to keep your footing and do some of those things when the field conditions are like that.

“If you can get them behind the sticks, you saw they were running the ball every third down. It was third-and-10 and they were handing the ball off just because throwing was a little questionable. That’s great… but it’s more difficult defensively just because you’re reacting to what an offense is doing and that just slows you down, so your being sure on feet and stuff is going to slow you down even another step.”

McCoy’s big game in the snow gave Burke flashbacks, because that’s exactly what happened in 2013. The Eagles won 34-20, and McCoy ran over Detroit for 217 yards and two touchdowns on 29 rushes.

Burke took notes from a staff meeting the next day that was centered around brainstorming for future situations like that, but he never thought he’d need them. Turns out, he’ll be digging them up this week.

“I keep a lot of stuff,” he said, grinning. “I’m a pack rat.”

Good thing.

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