There are plenty of reasons the Miami Dolphins lost on Sunday.
Ted Ginn's drops. Chad Henne's inexperience. The New Orleans Saints' unstoppable offense. Tony Sparano's record skipping a beat. The hastily prepared jambalaya they had for lunch. The lack of clean towels.
People thought the Miami Dolphins could win this football game for the same reason they win any game: by running the football, controlling the clock, and minimizing mistakes. The belief abound was that the Fins wouldn't succumb to the shootout-style of football New Orleans plays.
And in the first half they even managed to force some turnovers from the Saints. Things couldn't have been going more according to plan. I was already laying out my gloating outfit and queuing up the fight song. And then, while halfway through a little jig, the rug was pulled out from underneath the Fins. Needless to say, I would jig no more.
Leading football scientists refer to it as The Faulk Effect . They would have called it the Warner Effect (sounded too much like a hair loss/greying action), or the Az-Zahir Hakim Effect (too many hyphens), or the Dick Vermeil Effect (too much crying); but The Faulk Effect was decided to be best.
What The Faulk Effect consists of is an uber-dominant offense that dictates games and destroys game plans. Having a dangerous offense that puts up points in bunches means less talented teams are forced to move faster to keep pace. In trying to keep pace, the other team abandons the way they win football games and just tries to emulate their opponent. You wind up playing catch-up rather than imposing your will.
The comparison has been made between the New Orleans Saints and the 1999 St.Louis Rams (hence The Faulk Effect); and if it hasn't, I'm making it now.
Like the '99 Rams, the Saints have an excellent QB, a dangerous running back, and a full compliment of excellent receivers. Trying to stop them is like trying to stop Godzilla moving through downtown Tokyo. You can throw Mothra at him for a bit, but the thing's a bug. How can that beat a radioactive dinosaur?
The point is (aside from avoiding downtown Tokyo) that both the '99 Rams and '09 Saints have the ability to force teams to play their style of football. You can try to contain them, but they're going to find a way to score (like Wilt Chamberlain if he played in the WNBA). And when they do score you have to respond, and thus begins the shootout you never wanted in the first place.
When New Orleans starts to ramp it up, it takes a team out of their comfort zone and forces them to mirror the Saints. Teams that fall into this find out the hard way that they aren't New Orleans and that they don't have the tools to score the way the Saints can.
Philly, Detroit, and the Giants all felt the symptoms of The Faulk Effect. New York had Eli Manning squander bomb after bomb deep, instead of handing off to their bread and butter of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. And slowly but surely, the game got away from them.
This is the hole that Miami fell into.
The entire first half was spent watching the Fins follow their game plan to a T(ony Sparano). They controlled the football and kept Drew Brees eating gumbo on the sidelines for as long as they could. Miami even made some big plays that were unexpected, but very welcome.
Then wide receiver Davone Bess fumbled and gave the Saints a touchdown right before the half. Instead of being up a comfortable three scores, the Fins were now touchable. Safety Darren Sharper's quick pick-six after halftime had the Fins scrambling to respond and they overreacted.
The Faulk Effect had reared it's ugly head. Which isn't to say Marshall Faulk is ugly, but rather that the effect itself is ugly. Some might even call Faulk dashing...ahem. Moving on.
In the first half the Fins had 10 first downs, seven on the ground and three through the air. After the half, Miami ended up with just six more first downs, this time with only one on the the ground and five through the air. They completely abandoned their way of playing football.
Chad Henne ended up throwing 26 passes in the second half, the same amount he threw in the entire game against the New York Jets. Henne's 36 pass attempts on Sunday were the most he'd ever thrown in his NFL career. He also managed (with a little help from his friends) to throw two interceptions in the second half as well.
Miami's time of possession in the second half was 11:13, compared to 18:47 for the Saints. For a team that's made their living minimizing mistakes, running the football, and controlling the clock, they somehow managed to ignore everything that's given them success.
The Saints can't be stopped, but they can be contained. The Dolphins did more than most teams have, and stopped them for a half. But when the Saints extracted themselves out from under the Fins' thumb (do flippers have thumbs?) the Dolphins had trouble containing their own inhibitions.
With New Orleans off to the races, Miami started to imitate the Saints. Instead of sticking with their run-and-stun offense, they ended up trying to match Brees and Co.'s torrid pace.
You could even make the case that Ginn's late drops were because he was trying to turn upfield too quickly, trying to make the big play instead of just a play. The Faulk Effect can impact players in such a fashion.
So call it a choke, or a brain fart. It was a little bit of both. Now there's an interesting picture.
But for a team that runs draws on third-and-six, the second half of Sunday's game was a shocking reversal of their standards and practices. The Faulk Effect is not to be toyed with.
You heard me NFL.
(Note: Feel free to toy with The Romo Effect, which breaks down pretty much like Murphy's Law.)
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