The Miami Dolphins followed a disastrous trip to London with an uninspiring 16-10 victory over the Matt Cassel-led Tennessee Titans in Week 5. Over those two weeks quarterback Jay Cutler struggled at the quarterback position. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 164 yards and an interception against the Saints at Wembley Stadium, then followed that up with a 12 for 26 completion rate against the Titans for a meager 92 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Given these numbers it’s not hard to ask why people were questioning Cutler and the Miami passing game in recent days. But a comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons has lowered the temperature around the Dolphins’ locker room. Cutler threw two touchdowns against the Falcons on Sunday, with the second coming on a beautifully-designed play to wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Trailing 17-7 late in the third quarter the Dolphins face a 2nd and 6 at the Atlanta 7-yard line. They align with Cutler (#6) under center and 12 offensive personnel in the formation. Two tight ends line up in a dual wing to the right, while Landry (#14) and Kenny Stills (#10) are in a stack-slot formation to the left. Against this personnel package the Falcons employ their base 4-3 defense, and put outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (#59) down on the line of scrimmage over the dual tight ends:
At this point in the play Cutler might be questioning the defensive coverage scheme. With the information available to him it could be either Cover 1, given that there is a defender aligned across from each receiver and a free safety is standing deep in the end zone. But if you look at the cornerbacks, their feet are staggered toward the middle of the field, which is a zone coverage key. But in a moment the secondary scheme will crystalize. Landry starts in Orbit Motion toward the offensive backfield:
Now look at the defensive backfield. Desmond Trufant (#21) rotates back to the middle of the field to occupy the free safety spot while Ricardo Allen (#37) comes down toward the right edge of the offense. If this were zone coverage the defense would not react, but with Trufant rotating back and Allen shifting down in response to the motion, it gives away the coverage scheme. This is man.
Only Cutler, Landry and head coach Adam Gase have a twist:
Landry does not cross the formation at all. At the snap he reverses course and runs a swing route back to the left side of the field. Cutler carries out a run fake to Jay Ayaji (#23) to hold the defense for a moment before dropping to pass. Stills runs a crossing route. But the primary read here is Landry who drifts back to the left.
Watch how this puts the Atlanta secondary in a bind:
Trufant get’s caught in No Man’s Land here. Allen continues down to the left edge, and between the run fake and his movement to the middle of the field, Trufant has a long distance to cover as he scrambles toward Landry. Looking at the end zone angle highlights how the motion and reversal from Landry catches Atlanta in a bind:
Touchdown passes do not get easier than that in the NFL.
Miami completed the comeback in the fourth quarter to improve to 3-2. Despite their offensive woes, their record puts them just behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. With upcoming games against the New York Jets, the Baltimore Ravens and the Oakland Raiders, Miami has a chance to make some noise in the AFC.