Have the New England Patriots Found a Cure for the Wildcat Offense?

Martin BentleyCorrespondent INovember 23, 2008

Nine weeks ago in Foxborough, the supposedly woeful Miami Dolphins caused one of the shocks of the season when they demolished the New England Patriots, the very team who had gone the previous regular season unbeaten, by a score of 38-13.

Head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning came up with the secret plan to humiliate the Patriots in their own back yard, and for this plan, they looked to college football.

The Arkansas Razorbacks had become famous for running the Wildcat Offense, where the quarterback lines up as a wide receiver, and the ball is directly snapped to the running back, who will either take off and run or pass the ball.

Against the Patriots that afternoon, the Dolphins used Ronnie Brown to full effect. Of Brown's four touchdowns, three came directly from the Wildcat formation, and Brown threw a TD pass to Anthony Fasano, as the Patriots simply had no answer to these plays.

Since that afternoon, several NFL teams have adopted the Wildcat offense, with varying levels of success. Today, the Patriots will be looking for revenge when they travel to Miami for the return game, and it's almost certain that coach Bill Belichick has drilled his defense in case the Dolphins attempt a repeat performance.

The Patriots are smarting after already having lost four games this season, including two home games—the Dolphins game, and last week's Thursday night game against the New York Jets.

The Patriots and the Dolphins have matching 6-4 records going into today's game, and the Patriots know that it's vital they win, as a defeat will not only leave them a game behind the Dolphins, but the Dolphins will also hold the tiebreaker over the Patriots, effectively putting the Patriots two games behind.

If the Wildcat offense is used today, the Patriots know they have to fill any gaps that develop, bringing the linebackers up to stuff the line, and forcing Brown to throw, which brings the secondary into play.

This may force the Dolphins to play a cautious, conservative game, and they may have to look to pick their spots against the Patriots defense. The Pats may well try too hard though, and that's when the Dolphins should strike.

As for the outcome of the game, the Patriots are considered two point favourites in Vegas, and today's game will certainly be tighter than nine weeks ago. The Patriots have not lost two games in a row for over two years, and the Dolphins have not swept their opponents since 2000, so history favours the Patriots today.

However, I just have the sense that the Dolphins will pull off the sweep—Wildcat Offense or no Wildcat Offense.