NFL Big Gain: Lamar Miller Splits the Defense

The Dan Campbell era is off to a rousing start, as the Miami Dolphins have responded with two wins in two games under the new head coach. Mark Schofield looks at the resurgence of running back Lamar Miller and the Fins’ rushing attack.

The Dolphins routed the Houston Texans at home on Sunday, ripping off a 41-point first half en route to a 44-26 victory over their AFC South opponent. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for four touchdowns, and finished the day completing 18 of 19 passes for 282 yards and four scores. Running back Lamar Miller also had an excellent afternoon, gaining 175 yards on just 14 carries and hauling in three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.

Late in the first half, the combination of a well-executed split zone play and one missed tackle added up to a huge run for Miller.

With just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Dolphins face 2nd and 4 on their own 15-yard line. They line up with Tannehill under center and 12 offensive personnel in the game using pro formation left and a wing-slot look to the right. The Texans have their base 3-4 defense in the game, minus J.J. Watt who was injured on the previous play:NFLR7MiamiStill1

Miami runs the split zone, with the offensive line blocking to the right. Tight end Jordan Cameron (#84), lined up in a wing to the right, comes across the formation looking to cut block the backside defensive end:


Thanks to the execution upfront, Miller does not have to think too hard about his options, quickly taking his bang read:

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After racing into the secondary, Miller gets a big assist from wide receiver Rishard Matthews (#18) with a downfield block while taking this play the distance for an 85-yard scoring run.

Looking at the end zone angle gives a better view of how the play comes together, specifically two crucial elements. First, center Mike Pouncey (#51) and left guard Dallas Thomas (#63) face a big problem, specifically 325 pounds of nose tackle Vince Wilfork (#75) lined up in 0 technique over the center. With this run heading to the other side of the field, the center and guard need to execute a combination block here, with both players first establishing leverage at the point of attack on the NT, before the LG flows to the second level.

Most critical to the execution of this block is the initial step of Thomas with his right foot. The guard needs to set himself up with a slide step to get a good angle on Wilfork, while eyeing playside linebacker Akeem Dent (#50). Once he engages the NT with Pouncey, Thomas must read Dent, and if the LB cuts to the inside, the guard needs to move and head off the linebacker.

Here is that movement in action:

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From there, the next element is the missed tackle. Safety Andre Hal (#29) drops into the box before the snap, and does a good job of reading the flow of the play. But Miller does a better job of running through the tackle attempt:

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From there, the RB picks up help from Matthews, and is off to the races.

The blowout victory for Miami improved their record to 3-3. They now face a much stiffer test, when they travel north to take on the New England Patriots on Thursday night.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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