Full of surprises, Dolphins are undefeated with Pats next
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill says when he calls a trick play, even his offensive linemen get excited.
And why not? Razzle dazzle is a big reason the surprising Miami Dolphins are undefeated.
“I’m all for anytime everybody gets excited about a play call,” play-caller and coach Adam Gase said with a chuckle Monday. “The worst is when the quarterback says he doesn’t believe it’s going to work. That’s when you get a little nervous.
“If I feel like guys really like something, we’ll get to it.”
They’re likely cueing up something exotic for the New England Patriots, where the Dolphins play Sunday with a chance to end their streak of nine consecutive losses in Foxborough.
The Dolphins used a receiver-to-receiver pass and two wideout sweeps to score three touchdowns Sunday and rally past Oakland 28-20. With the win, Miami improved to 3-0 for only the third time since the Dan Marino era and took a two-game lead over the other three teams in the AFC East, including perennial power New England.
How much is left in Gase’s bag of play-calling tricks?
“A lot,” he said.
Sunday’s surprises allowed the Dolphins to spring their speed — NASCAR on grass, as receiver Jakeem Grant called it. He and receiver Albert Wilson each scored on a jet sweep, and Wilson threw his first NFL pass for a 52-yard touchdown to Grant .
“When you win,” Gase said, “it’s fun.”
The Dolphins had practiced the three plays for weeks and chose the right time to call them. The scores helped erase a 17-7 second-half deficit.
“The play comes into the huddle, and everyone kind of gets excited,” Tannehill said. “Anytime there’s a big-shot call or a trick play, you can feel the offensive line kind of get excited.”
The defensive line, too.
“It’s a lot of fun watching guys run down the sideline untouched,” defensive end Cameron Wake said.
Wilson did just that, sprinting into the clear on his 74-yard jet sweep catch and run. The Raiders’ reaction?
“They got behind me so quick, I didn’t really see their faces,” Wilson said.
He did see Grant, exchanging a high five with his teammate as they ran strike for stride into the end zone.
The 5-foot-9 Wilson and 5-foot-7 Grant are part of the fastest receiving corps in team history. Kenny Stills can fly too, as he has showed while averaging 20.4 yards on nine catches this season, three for touchdowns. Running back Kenyan Drake is also swift, giving Miami yet another quick-strike option.
“Coach always tells us just go out there and run — a lot of defenders are going to be terrified by speed, so just take off and run,” Grant said.
It’s not really that simple. The trick plays require perfect timing, and talent.
The receiver-to-receiver pass involved a fake pitch by Tannehill, a handoff to Frank Gore and a lateral to Wilson. The former high school quarterback then rolled to his right as he threw a pass right on the money, as had been the case daily in practice.
“I know how hard that is to be running full speed laterally and make that throw,” Tannehill said. “During the week, he was consistent on making a perfect throw. It wasn’t ever a question. He never stretched Jakeem out or made him adjust really. After I saw him run it the first time I thought, ‘He’s got this. He doesn’t need any tips.’”
After the game Wilson tweeted: ”& he can pass !!”
Grant made the catch at the 35-yard line and broke two tackles en route to the end zone, motivated by an earlier conversation with Wilson.
“All he told me was, ‘Make sure you score. And if you get tackled by one man in the open field, you owe me $100,’” Grant recalled. “Now he owes me $100.”
The Dolphins know trickery will take them only so far. The early schedule has been soft, injuries are mounting, and keeping Tannehill healthy is a must. Vegas is so unimpressed by the Dolphins that they’re a touchdown underdog at struggling New England.
But Gase, who came to Miami in 2016 with a reputation as an offensive wiz, finally seems to have the right personnel for his playbook. That includes the versatile Wilson, acquired last offseason from the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We have so much stuff,” Wilson said. “I’m ready for everything he calls — every run play, every pass play. Whatever he has for me, I’m ready for it.”
The Dolphins hope the defense won’t be.
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