Dolphins vs. Colts: Drawing Up a Game Plan for Miami

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Dolphins vs. Colts: Drawing Up a Game Plan for Miami
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
Whether Ryan Tannehill suits up or not, the Indianapolis Colts still have to deal with the Miami Dolphins' stingy defense.

Raise your hand if you thought this would be a game with playoff implications back in August. The correct answer is keeping your hand down.

With both the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts sitting at 4-3 and vying for a playoff spot, the team that wins will set itself up beautifully going forward.

That bodes well for the road team, which has looked like a contender through and through all season long, but especially over the course of its three-game winning streak. On paper, there's no reason the Dolphins should lose to the Colts, but there was no reason the Packers should have lost to them, either.

Simply showing up won't be good enough to pick up a win. They'll need a good game plan. Here's how they do it.

 

Take Advantage of a Clean Pocket

Whether it's Ryan Tannehill or Matt Moore pulling the trigger for the Dolphins offense, there should be plenty of opportunities for them to sit back in the pocket, find the open man and make a throw.

The Colts defense is one of the worst in the league against the pass, and it's thanks in large part to a lack of pressure from their front seven. They typically get pressure on less than 25 percent of the opponent's drop-backs, which has allowed opponents to complete 64.6 percent of their throws and accumulate a passer rating of 103.4.

The Dolphins emphasize getting the ball out quickly, and while that should still be in the back of Tannehill's mind, he doesn't have to force anything just for the sake of getting the ball out quickly.

Both the Browns and the Dolphins run a West Coast style of offense, and while the Browns were only able to score 13 points against the Colts, none of that would have been possible without Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden taking advantage of the Colts secondary.

On plays where the Colts got pressure on Weeden, they were able to contain the Browns passing attack. When that didn't happen, though, Weeden shredded them by completing 67.9 percent of his throws at 7.6 yards per attempt and adding two touchdowns on top of it.

Tannehill can comfortably hang onto the ball a bit longer, knowing that he'll have the time to do so.

Even if the pressure gets there as a result, he has been one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league under pressure.

 

Consistent Pressure on Andrew Luck

The Dolphins pass defense has been one of the best in the league to this point in the season, and the key this week will be getting pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. He has been pressured on 36 percent of his throws (fifth-most in the NFL) and completes just 45.1 percent of his throws under pressure (ranks 21st out of 32 quarterbacks), according to ProFootballFocus.com.

The Dolphins have been one of the better pressure defenses in the league lately thanks in large part to a dominant performance by AFC Defensive Player of the Month Cameron Wake.

But he is not the only one who has played well on the defensive line recently. Defensive tackle Randy Starks has been one of the most productive pass-rushers in the league, with 12 pressures and seven hits to go along with his three sacks. Olivier Vernon is coming into his own as a pass-rusher as well and ranks as ProFootballFocus.com's 14th-most productive pass-rushing 4-3 defensive end.

The Dolphins should be able to get pressure with their front four against the Colts offensive line, which ranks 26th in pass-blocking efficiency, having given up 94 pressures—the second-most of any offensive line.

Yet Luck has only been sacked on 5.9 percent of his total drop-backs. The Dolphins may need to find a way to manufacture pressure that will get to the quarterback more quickly.

We saw a new wrinkle in the Dolphins defense last week when defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle drew in a few cornerback blitzes to create extra pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has struggled with the blitz more this year than in year's past.

Luck is off to a great start against the blitz, and his numbers are actually better against extra defenders than they are against a four-man rush.

The Dolphins might have an opportunity to bluff the cornerback blitzes that they ran last week, creating the illusion of a blitz while baiting him into a throw.

Against the Rams at Wembley, the Patriots ran what is called a zone exchange, which is a way for defenses to bring pressure from different directions without having to send extra men on a blitz.

Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich initially lined up with his hand in the ground, but stood up just before the snap. He has dropped into coverage in the past, having played linebacker for years in the Patriots 3-4 system.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo comes on the blitz from the offense's right side, accompanying defensive end Chandler Jones on the rush.

 

This, along with an inside move from Chandler Jones creates some confusion as to who is supposed to block who. That, in turn, forces Sam Bradford to make an off-balance throw, which fell incomplete thanks to good coverage from Patriots defensive back Marquise Cole.

The standard four-man rush should be more than enough against the lackluster Colts offensive line, but if it's not, the Dolphins have already proven that they have a very effective blitz package that can make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand. 

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