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BETWEEN THE LINES

In Miami and elsewhere, it's the call for the Wild

September 28, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Down . . . set . . . psych!

Just what were the Miami Dolphins doing last Sunday when they snapped the ball directly to running back Ronnie Brown six times, repeatedly tearing off big plays against the New England Patriots? Brown ran for touchdowns of two, five and 62 yards on those plays and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass in Miami's stunning 38-13 victory.

First of all, the formation is called "Wildcat," and the Dolphins hadn't used it at all in their first two games. At Arkansas, where the Razorbacks used to run it with Darren McFadden, it's called "Wild Hog." At Ole Miss, it's called "Wild Rebel."

What the Dolphins did was put Brown in the shotgun, line up quarterback Chad Pennington at receiver and send running back Ricky Williams in motion from left to right as another receiver.

The defense is always looking to create a numbers advantage -- more defenders than the offense can block. But with a 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback now at receiver, he helps negate that advantage by becoming another blocker. And with the speedy Brown taking the snap and essentially taking off on a sweep, it stretches the interior defense and creates all kinds of running seams.

"We needed to get them off balance and show them a different look and not let them get too comfortable," Brown said. "I think when they get settled, they're pretty fundamentally sound as a defense. We tried to give them a new look."

What's more, the Dolphins used an unbalanced line, overloading on the right side by moving left tackle Jake Long to the opposite side, shoulder-to-shoulder with right tackle Vernon Carey.

So, from left to right, it went: tight end, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle, right tackle. That created confusion for the normally savvy Patriots defense and made it that much easier for Brown to run to that side.

Considering how well the wrinkle worked for the Dolphins, that's far from the last time we'll see a Wildcat-type formation from an NFL team this season.

For instance, in Buffalo they could run Wild Bill. Or in Denver and Indianapolis they could run Wild Horses.

And what about Oakland, home of McFadden, where Coach Lane Kiffin's job dangles by a thread?

Wildfired.

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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