You can plot.
You can scheme.
You can plan.
You can mastermind.
You can prepare.
But if you don't have the firepower, the big boys of the NFL are going to beat you. And on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins got beat because they brought a knife to a gunfight (and then forgot the knife in the car).
It all comes back to the big play.
Miami can't create them.
They can run the football and they can control the clock. But when it comes time to make a big play, when things aren't going exactly to plan, that the Fins are left wanting.
Every Miami drive feels like brain surgery. Smashmouth football, but it's so meticulous that it inhibits its own explosiveness. And the difference between 3-5 and 5-3 for Miami is explosiveness.
(And two wins.)
Against New England the Fins averaged 4.3 yards running the football and 5.2 yards passing the football. The Patriots were averaging 4.5 yards a rush and 8.3 yards a pass. Not only did they beat Miami at their own specialty, but they coupled it with a dangerous pass game.
This isn't the first instance of Miami being out-slashed by opponents. On the season opponents are averaging 8.3 yards a pass on the Fins, while Miami averages only 5.9 yards.
The only teams doing worse than Miami? Kansas City, St. Louis, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Cleveland. Not exactly elite company. Or decent company. Or even someone you'd want to be around for longer than five minutes.
It's a question of philosophy and personnel. The teams the Dolphins have lost to possess big play guys.
New Orleans: Oh, they're only the most explosive offense in the league. Stopping Drew Brees & Co. is like trying to stop the world from turning, only with less pillow talk and that soap opera filter that goes over cameras.
San Diego: Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson aren't even aware there's routes you can run shorter than 15 yards.
New England: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker keep defensive coordinators up at night. Usually with their play, but sometimes with prank phone calls.
Notice that every single one of these teams has a player, or players, capable of taking over a game? They may not have all had huge games against Miami, but the Fins were forced to respect them, something that hasn't been reciprocated. Opposing teams can rip off huge chunks of yardage in a single play, but Miami has to execute on several plays to achieve the same result.
Which isn't to say that Miami is completely bereft of talent. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are workhorses, but teams are beginning to zero in on the fact that Miami couldn't stretch the field with...a...field-stretching machine? Let's avoid specific examples.
It's why Ronnie Brown can throw the ball, because secondaries are jumping all over the run the second Brown touches the ball. Joey Haynos looked like he came out of the stands to catch his touchdown in the third on Sunday. Defenses are telling Miami to beat them deep, if they can.
The teams Miami have beaten are Buffalo and the New York Jets. Buffalo is atrocious throwing the football, and Mark Sanchez has been inconsistent as a rookie quarterback in the Big Apple. Miami has been able to win these games by dragging their opponents down to their level.
Now I've touched on this subject before, but it's becoming more and more apparent that Miami just haven't had the horses to survive their schedule thus far. They've come up with ways of leveling the playing field (by hogging the football like the kid who repeated grades did on the playground), but opponents have just been a little too talented for Miami.
The Fins have given up nine plays of 40 yards or more, the third-most in the NFL. They've also given up 30 plays of 20 yards or more, tied for the second-most in the league.
And on offense Miami is 28th in the league with only 14 plays of 20 yards or longer. They just can't respond to big plays, and it's been their undoing.
But you play the cards you're dealt. And Miami has arguably played a mean game of canasta. If they want to win football games though, they're going to have to find someone who can up the ante for them.
It could and should be Ted Ginn Jr. He's the man with the wheels, but has been struggling to catch anything but blame from the fans.
Returning kickoffs is one way of contributing (and Ginn has reinvented himself within the span of two weeks as a man to be feared when you kick deep), but what would be even nicer is if Ginn could lend Chad Henne a hand. Literally. USE YOUR HANDS TO CATCH THE BALL TED.
Peyton has Wayne.
Brady has Moss.
Brees has Colston.
Rivers has Jackson.
Henne needs Ginn. Not just for a safety valve, but as someone who can give Miami's offense a chance to get big yards quickly. Ginn had a chance to make a huge catch for Miami late in the fourth quarter, but the guy who can't catch, didn't catch it. He has the raw physical tools, but he has yet to become the big time receiver he was drafted to be.
And Miami needs to start finding ways to have teams respect their ability to make the big play. Bringing in Pat White to run the option means that they're still operating in the same section of the field until they actually throw out of it.
They need to find out how to stretch teams so they can re-establish their run game (the Fins averaged 177 yards on the ground their first five games, and only 107 in their last three; their total yardage has also dipped from an average of 340 to 257 yards). Because Miami will need to run the ball to minimize the chance of being burnt by the big play; by keeping opposing offenses off the field.
And because the weird thing about having the league's toughest schedule is that it doesn't get much easier.
Check out The Chirp Show , it's better for you than proper diet and exercise. Which are way overrated by the way. My heart hurts.