Not your Daddy's Dolphins, It's your Grandpa's: The Five Top Plays of 2008
Unless you've been living under a rock, or in a cave, or at sea...well, you get the idea, then you have heard of the "wildcat" by now, and how the Dolphins used it to their advantage in their NFL record-tying 2008 comeback season.
What you might not know is that the "wildcat" isn't some brand new thing that is sweeping the gridiron.
Quite the contrary.
Ask any football "old-timer" and they'll tell you that it reminds them of football's glory days.
The latest "wildcat" formations are all based on a "single-wing" formation created by Pop Warner in 1907.
That's correct, 1907.
So before you have something to say about it, (I'm talking to you Mr. Sapp), know that it has been a part of football long before any of us ever were.
Without the "wildcat" the Dolphins season may have been very different.
Here's the top plays of the season incorporating the "wildcat" but without forgetting that it's really the defense that wins games.
Downtown Ronnie Brown
Although the Dolphins had practiced their new "wildcat" formations, they didn't try it until the now historic Week Three win at New England.
The Miami Dolphins and Ronnie Brown's foray into the "wildcat" was a top play for the season.
"Their defense looked confused, so I was like 'OK, we got them on this one'," Brown said about the play.
Late in the first quarter, Brown took the direct snap on 2nd-and-goal from the two yard line. Easy touchdown.
And so began the "Ronnie Brown Show".
The Ronnie Brown Show
This is more of a "best overall game" rather than just a measly "best play".
Because the "wildcat" worked so well in their first try, the Dolphins decided to live and die by the formation. And live they did.
The formation usually starts with Brown in the shotgun and Chad Pennington, Ricky Williams and Pat Cobbs lined up at receiver. An unbalanced O-line adds to the confusion.
Quarterbacks coach David Lee used the scheme when he was offensive coordinator at Arkansas.
The whole point is to create space and angles. Space for runners to run and angles for blockers to block. Simple, right?
Not exactly, just ask the Patriots in Week Three.
What was the result of the "wildcat" that day?
Ronnie Brown scored four touchdowns and only one came the conventional way.
Three touchdowns came off the direct snap.
He also threw for a touchdown.
Brown now says that the "wildcat" has helped him see defenses better. Not just for the "wildcat," but for his other position, you know, as a running back.
Watch out AFC.
Merling the Magician
Defense wins games.
The biggest game of then rookie DE Phillip Merling's career came during the final game of the season against the Jets in New York. Merling came up big, real big.
Not only was this top play the biggest momentum shift of the day, it was all the points the Dolphins would need to secure a win and the AFC East title.
Chad Pennington had just found Ted Ginn Jr. in the endzone for a 27-yard touchdown.
Leading just 7-6 late in the second quarter, the Dolphins defensive scheme called for Merling to pick up the running back when Favre left the pocket and look for the screen pass.
When Merling looked back, the ball was coming right to him.
He intercepted the pass and took it 25-yards to the endzone. The pick six was the highlight of Merling's rookie season.
It also put the final nail in the Jets season, momentum, and Brett Favre's career.
Run, Ricky, Run!
Also, out of the "wildcat" formation, this top play came against the Seahawks in Week 10.
Early in the second quarter, Ronnie Brown took the direct snap and handed it off to Ricky Williams who ran untouched for 51 yards and the score.
The Miami home crowd went wild and it was Williams longest run since 2002.
The Final Exclamation Point
I love special teams.
Most big games and big plays have something to do with the special teams.
Their big plays are rare and they also make the best highlight reels.
So in the final game of the season with the AFC East title on the line, it is no surprise that LB Charlie Anderson's blocked punt in the fourth quarter is a top play of the season.
Anderson read the play from the beginning and ran, at top speed, to block the punt and give the Dolphins the ball in Jets territory.
The Dolphins went on to win the game 24-17 and the AFC East title.