Alosi’s Tripping Incident has everyone in the NFL talking by Lloyd Vance

“The Trip Heard Around the NFL” as NY Jets’ assistant Sal Alosi made a dumb mistake that will cost him some of his reputation and in the pocket

In an NFL Season that has been defined by it’s unexpected nature, it got even more bizarre  in one of Sunday’s games. During the 3rd quarter of the hotly contested divisional battle between the NY Jets and Miami Dolphins — won by the ‘Phins 10-6 — New York assistant coach Sal Alosi intentionally tripped a Miami player on a punt play.

Alosi stuck out his left knee on the Jets’ sideline and knee-tripped Dolphins rookie CB Nolan Carroll, who was covering a punt.  Carroll fell to the turf and laid there for several minutes before walking off.  After the play, which was shown nationally on replay by CBS including a scathing commentary by announcer Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, Alosi was rightfully-so in for with his team and the league.

After the game, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan said of his assistants act, “That’s a thing that has no business in this league, or anywhere else.”  Clearly Alosi lost his head for a moment of non-clarity and now he has to face the music.  A very remorseful Alosi later said while fighting back tears in a Monday news conference, “I let everybody down yesterday with my actions.  My actions were inexcusable and irresponsible.”

To make matters worse, volatile Dolphins LB Karlos Dansby used Alsoi’s act to take a swipe at Ryan.  Dansby said, “He’s just taking after the head coach, man. It all trickles downhill. That’s how I look at it, it trickles downhill. The head coach, he opened a can of worms over there and now he’s got to fix it.”

Unfortunately for the New York Jets assistant, he did something that has crossed many a player or coach’s mind, unfortunately Alosi acted on it.  Luckily Carroll was okay, but the NFL and the New York Jets organization had to act with disciplinary action despite his publicly apologizing to everyone involved.

The league and NY Jets organization did their duty by suspending Alosi on Monday night without pay for the remainder of the 2010 season, including the playoffs, and fined him $25,000 dollar which isn’t small potatoes on an assistant’s salary.

In the end, much like much-maligned Eagles QB Michael Vick — for his dogfighting past — I say  that Alosi made a mistake and deserves a second chance once his suspension is completed.  He went “nuts” in the heat of battle, but being a football coach is his passion and I don’t think it is right to take it away for a brain-cramp moment.

“I know I’ll get killed for it,” Ryan said. “There’s no place for it in football, without question, but he made a mistake and he admitted it.”

BTW:  Did anyone else think of former Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes’ former sideline fiasco in the 1978 Gator Bowl when Alosi’s incident occured

 

 

Lloyd Vance is an NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Moss’ big play saves the day for the Patriots

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Patriots WR Randy Moss showed that he has plenty of fight left in him as his stiff-arm touchdown against the Dolphins was a huge play

Think back to Week 5 of the 2009 NFL Season.  The New England Patriots appeared to be on the ropes with murmuring of their dynasty possibly ending after a tough 20-17 road loss to former Belichick apprentice Josh McDaniels’ Denver Broncos.  The loss was gut-wrenching for an organization that has spent the better part of this decade dominating while winning three Super Bowls and producing the NFL’s only 16-0 regular season.

Two players seemed to take the brunt of public criticism worse than others for the Patriots much-publicized Broncos’ loss and 3-2 record at the time, quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Randy Moss.  Brady was said to be bothered by his slow recovery from a devastating 2008 knee injury and some outright questioned if Moss was finished as an elite NFL receiver.  In the Week 5 loss to Denver, Moss was shadowed throughout the game by former Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey and was limited to 1 catch for 36 yards and no touchdowns. 

Some analysts were even saying that the best way to control Moss was to be physical with him at the line of scrimmage and that he no longer had the ability to beat a jam.  Moss’ numbers up until that point were inconsistent showing 30 catches for 367 yards and only 1 touchdown.   It was the one touchdown that caused many to say Moss had lost a step.  However the 12-year veteran and Patriots have taken off since the loss to the Broncos.  The Pats have rattled off three straight wins over the Titans, Buccaneers, and Dolphins to take back the lead in the AFC East division.

While Moss has significantly turned up the heat in his game over the Patriots’ 3-game winning streak.  Of course some have said his best efforts were against the lowly Titans (8 receptions for 129 yards, 16.1 ypc, and 3 TDs) and Bucs (5 receptions for 69 yards, 13.8 ypc, and 0 TDs) were no huge feat considering that both teams were winless at the time of the Patriots’ wins over them.  But the 32-old receiver showed this past week against the defensive Miami Dolphins that his game is far from being finished.

In a game that was tight throughout, Moss (six receptions for 147 yards, 24.5 ypc, and 1 TD) had two big plays for the Patriots. He hauled in a 36-yard reception to set up RB Laurence Maroney’s 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and also later in the 3rd quarter, he turned in the play of the game.

 After Dolphins Wildcat Ronnie Brown threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joey Haynos to give the Dolphins a 17-16 lead, it was Moss who rose to the occasion. 

The Patriots defense and crowd were looking a little deflated when the Patriots offense took the field deep in their own territory.   After two plays, the Patriots faced third and 1 from their 29-yard line.  Perfectly as Moss sprinted across the field on a crossing pattern, Brady hit his favorite target in stride.  Dolphins rookie a cornerback Vontae Davis -– admitted that he had grown-up watching Moss with the Vikings — was not far behind and attempted to take on Moss high, but it was the veteran that had a lesson for the youngster. 

Moss using a “Walter Payton-esque” right stiff-arm sent the young rookie flailing to the turf and sprinted all the way to the endzone for an electrifying 71-yard touchdown catch and run.  Brady after the game said of the play and Moss’ effort, “It’s always nice for a quarterback when you see the back of No. 81 sprinting down the field once he gets by them, there’s not too many guys that can catch him.’’

The huge play lifted the Patriots (6-2) to an eventual win and served notice that they are ready for their big Week 10 showdown in Indy against the undefeated Colts.  By all accounts Moss also looks like he maybe on his way to another Pro Bowl with quality numbers 49 catches, 712 yards, 14.5 ypc, and 5 TDs.  Of Moss’ huge play on Sunday, Patriots O-lineman Logan Mankins said, “That has to be pretty deflating…That’s like getting stabbed in the heart’’.

Davis, who had an interception earlier in the game said of the future Hall of Famer, “That’s Randy Moss. He’s going to make his plays and I just tried to limit him the best I can.’’  Even though Moss has shown that he is a long way from being done, his career numbers (892 receptions for 13,913 yards, 15.6 ypc, and 140 TDs) are unbelievable.  We will see if Moss can continue his ride toward Canton, but right now he is playing at a “Jerry Rice” type level and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Review – Week 5

 

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Cowboys WR Miles Austin is Week 5’s Game Ball winner for his monumental effort in the Cowboys’ OT win over the Chiefs

The second quarter of the 2009 NFL season began in Week 5 and the league seems to be a clear case of the “Have’s” and the “Have Nots”.  After five weeks of NFL play, there are five undefeated teams (New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, and Denver Broncos) — most undefeated clubs through the first five weeks of a season in NFL history.  There are also four winless teams after five weeks (St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).  Fortunately the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns got off the “schnide” and can now call themselves winners after two close wins. The Browns “fueled” by the return of RB Jamal Lewis won 6-3 over the terrible Buffalo Bills and the Panthers further pushed Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn closer to the door with a 20-17 win. 

Overall I am going to designate Week 5 in the National Football League as “Blowout Week”.  There were 6 games of the 14 games played that were decided by 19 points or more.  Going into the weekend everyone feared that the Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers would dominate as they took on the NFL’s bottom rung teams — two combined wins between their opponents.  True to form the Giants (blew out the Oakland Raiders 44-7), Eagles (dominated the Bucs 34-14), Colts (marched through the Titans 31-9) and Vikings (tore apart the Rams 38-10) easily disposed of their opponents.  You can also throw-in other unexpected bludgeonings by Seattle Seahawks (beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-0) and Atlanta Falcons (lopsided win over the home team Niners 45-10).

Luckily for viewers, the NFL did also have its fair share of close games including two overtime thrillers.  Surprisingly two teams that were involved in close games were the Cowboys and Steelers.  Both came away with wins, but clearly they each played down to their respective home team competition too lightly (Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions).   The Dallas Cowboys continued there inconsistent ways as it took a monumental effort from receiver Miles Austin (see Game Balls) and quarterback Tony Romo to comeback in a game where they trailed the lowly Chiefs by a score of 10-3 at halftime.  Finally Dallas’ wake-up call came and the Cowboys hit some big plays to get the game to overtime and finally put the Chiefs away 26-20. Conversely the Steelers let Daunte Culpepper and the Lions hang around for a while due to an interception return for a touchdown then finally putting them away late in the fourth quarter winning by a score 28-20.

The game of the week was the Broncos led by “Belichick Jr” head coach Josh McDaniels beating his former team, the New England Patriots, by a score of 20-17 in overtime.  The Broncos drove 58 yards on the first series of overtime –- never looked back after winning the coin flip — to set up Matt Prater’s 41-yard winning field goal.  With former Eagles pro bowl safety Brian Dawkins leading the way, as usual the new-look Broncos were led by their defense, which has allowed just 43 points this season (8.6 per game).  The Broncos defense held the Patriots’ explosive offense scoreless in the second half and Pats Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss to just 36 receiving yards.  On offense, RB Knowshon Moreno made his first career start rushing 21 times for 88 yards, but the Broncos went more to the air against a Patriots secondary that was having problems in coverage.  The Broncos rolled-up 321 yards through the air — compared to just 209 passing yards for New England — and rallied for a big come-from-behind win that realistically showed that they are a team to be reckoned with. 

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers for this week before we go to the awards are:

The Wildcat was loose on Monday Night — Running out of multiple formations including the Wildcat, Miami Dolphins’ running back combination, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were nearly unstoppable in a physical 31-27 win over the NY Jets. Brown scored a pair of touchdowns, including the 2-yard game-winner out of the Wildcat, while rushing for 74 yards. Williams had 138 scrimmage yards, the big game coming on a 59-yard reception.  The Dolphins piled-up 151 rushing yards and converted nine of 14 third-down chances.  We even go to see rookie quarterback Pat White come in and move the chains on a third down run.

NFL Trade Deadline is approaching – Tuesday October 20th is the NFL Trade Deadline and for the first time in a while, there is some “buzz” around the date.  Already the NFL saw the trade of former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets and there could be more.  Watch for the names Bills WR Terrell Owens, Eagles WR Kevin Curtis, Titans QB Vince Young, Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey, Browns QB Brady Quinn, and Chargers LB Shawn Merriman to possibly be changing teams around the deadline.  Of course I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as former deals like former Niners QB Tim Rattay going the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th rd pick at the 2005 deadline are usually the norm.

The NFL is now a passing league – Through Week 5, teams with 300-yard passers had a combined record of 23-8 (.742).  Which is the highest winning percentage of teams with 300-yard passers over the first five weeks of a season (since 1970).  The 23 combined wins are already the most in NFL history through the first five weeks of a season.  Perennial 300-yard passer Colts QB Peyton Manning did it again this week as he hit the magic mark in a win over the Titans – has won 5-of-5 this year in 300-yard passing games. Manning’s final passing numbers were 36 of 44 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

Well it was a win — Browns QB Derek Anderson completed just two passes in 17 attempts for 23 yards in his team’s 6-3 ugly win over the Bills.  Anderson’s 11.8 completion percentage is the second-worst since the NFL-AFL merger for a winning quarterback with at least 15 pass attempts – also had a passer rating of 15. The Browns and Bills combined for the lowest scoring game of the season (9 points), besting the 9-7 result between the Redskins and Rams in Week 2.  And the Bills have lost 12 of their last 15 games.  What an ugly game, but at least Anderson “showed” that the Browns didn’t need disgruntled receiver Braylon Edwards…not.

Game Balls

Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin – Who needs T.O anyway!!! The big physical receiver from tiny Monmouth College (NJ) had 10 catches for a team-record 250 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 26-20 overtime victory at Kansas City. Austin saved the Cowboys’ hides with a 60-yard tackle-breaking game-winning TD reception in overtime. Austin became the 10th player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game. However QB Tony Romo’s new favorite target was the first player with those stats to score a game-winner in OT.

Honorable Mention

Philadelphia Eagles rookie WR Jeremy Maclin – Better stop double-teaming DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis maybe seeing more of the bench.  In his first NFL start, Maclin was electric.  The 2009 first rounder had six catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 33-14 win over Tampa Bay. Maclin was able to get deep twice for returning QB Donovan McNabb as he recorded touchdown receptions of 51 and 40 yards (firsts of his NFL career). Maclin is the fifth rookie since 1970 to have his first two career receiving touchdowns go for at least 40 yards and occur in the same game.

Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner – The veteran passer threw for 302 yards in the Cardinals’ 28-21 victory over Houston Texans. Warner’s efforts marked his 50th career 300-yard passing performance, which is the fifth-most in NFL history. Warner, has now passed for 300 yards in 50 of 113 games (44.2 percent), which is the fastest quarterback to reach 50 300-yard games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (176 games).  Warner also hit another milestone as he has now passed for 13,255 yards in his Cardinals’ career, which combined with his 14,447 yards with the St. Louis Rams.  Makes Warner join hall of famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to pass for at least 13,000 yards with two different teams.

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White – The 2008 Pro Bowl receiver had eight catches for a team-record 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ 45-10 win at San Francisco. White’s big day along Austin’s effort marks the second time in NFL history that two receivers each recorded at least 200 receiving yards and two TD catches on the same day (Kansas City’s Stephone Paige and Houston’s Drew Hill, Dec. 22, 1985).

Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – The former Bears runner rushed 27 times for 120 yards and one touchdown in the Bengals’ 17 – 14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.  Benson became the first running back in 40 games to rush for at least 100 yards against the Ravens.

Other Honorees: New York Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in the Giants’ easy win over the Raiders); Denver WR Eddie Royal (10 catches for 90 yards in the Broncos’ overtime victory over the Patriots. Royal, who now has 109 receptions in 20 career games, became the third wide receiver in NFL history to reach 100 catches in 20 or fewer games, joining Arizona’s Anquan Boldin – 16 games – and former New England wide receiver Terry Glenn – 20); Baltimore safety Ed Reed (52-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Bengals, which was the 12th return TD of his career); Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck (threw four touchdowns completing 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards in the Seahawks’ 41 – 0 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars); Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (had a pick-six interception return and was a big part of the Cardinals’ game-saving goal-line stand); Colts WR Austin Collie (The rookie from BYU caught eight passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts win over the Titans); Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers (two sacks and a huge safety in Carolina’s first win).

Lloyd’s Lackey

The Oakland Raiders – Is there a team worse than the Raiders after their 44-7 humiliating loss to the New York Giants – to answer my own question… “NO”.  I am still trying to figure out how the Raiders ever won a game over the Chiefs earlier this year.  The Giants scored a touchdown on each of their first four possessions for a 28-0 lead only minutes into the second quarter. In his brief appearance, Manning was 8-of-10 for 173 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to backup quarterback David Carr. The Giants ended the game with 483 yards of offense compared to only 124 total yards for the Raiders.  Al Davis’ boys were unable to get the ball moving on the ground or in the air.  Their rushing total was just 60 yards on 25 carries for an average of only 2.4 per carry against a Giants’ defense that allowed 5.5 yards per carry in their first four games.  QB JaMarcus Russell continued to struggle as he finished with only 100 yards passing – the former first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft was 1-of-6 to his wide receivers.  “I expected more out of us,” Raiders head coach Tom Cable said. “We just did not deliver today.” — Amen, Coach. And I didn’t want to mention it… but I will.  The Napa Valley Police and the NFL still might penalize Cable for his alleged punch against assistant coach Randy Hanson.

Dishonorable Mention

San Francisco 49ers CB Dre’ Bly – I guess he was trying to pay tribute to Deion Sanders.  But Bly’s decision to showboat as he was returning a great interception he made against the Falcons proved to be costly. The Niners corner had the ball stripped during his showboating attempt and head coach Mike Singletary was livid.  Of course later, Bly apologized but the damage was already done.

Patriots safety Brandon Merriweather – At a point when the Pats needed a stop late in the game, Merriweather took a dumb taunting penalty.  In the fourth quarter, Broncos WR Eddie Royal was hit in the back by Merriweather on an incompletion and the official right behind the play immediately threw his flag for pass interference. Then Merriweather made matters worse by getting up and pumping his fist while standing over Royal, thus garnering an additional15 yards for taunting.

Rams WR Donnie Avery – In a game that was well over, Avery decided to do a stupid dance after scoring a 27-yard touchdown in the Rams’ 38-10 loss to the Vikings.  Here see for yourself this unneeded display of non-team football.

Week 5 Games 

Bengals (4-1) over Ravens (3-2), 17-14

Broncos (5-0) over Patriots (3-2), 20-17

Browns (1-4) over Bills (1-4), 6-3

Cardinals (2-2) over Texans (2-3), 28-21

Colts (5-0) over Titans (0-5), 31-9

Cowboys (3-2) over Chiefs (0-5), 26-20

Eagles (3-1) over Buccaneers (0-5), 33-14

Falcons (3-1) over 49ers (3-2), 45-10

Giants (5-0) over Raiders (1-4), 44-7

Panthers (1-3) over Redskins (2-3), 20-17

Seahawks (2-3) over Jaguars (2-3), 41-0

Steelers (3-2) over Lions (1-4), 28-20

Vikings (5-0) over Rams (0-5), 38-10

Mon: Dolphins (2-3) over Jets (3-2), 31-27

Byes: Bears (3-1), Chargers (2-2), Packers (2-2), Saints (4-0)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Training Camp Questions – AFC East

Buffalo Bills

How will RB Marshawn Lynch’s legal problems and suspension (3 games) affect the team?

Can the small-market Bills continue to compete with the larger market teams given their stadium and economic issues plus are they a candidate for re-location (L.A or Toronto permantly)?

After a 5-1 start then limping home in 2008 and finishing 7-9 for the second straight season will owner Ralph Wilson get rid of head coach Dick Jauron, if the Bills disappoint again?

Can inexperienced QB Trent Edwards and a passing game that only generated 14 touchdowns in 2008 keep diva receiver Terrell Owens and emerging pass catcher Lee Evans happy?

Will the return of DE Aaron Schobel from injury and the addition of first round selection DE Aaron Maybin help a defense that only produced 47 sacks in 2007 and 2008 combined? 

Miami Dolphins

With a much harder schedule in 2009 (only played six teams with a winning record in ’08), will the Dolphins be able to duplicate their win total from their miraculous 2008 turnaround season?

Will the Dolphins continue to be the NFL’s leader in utilizing the “Wildcat” formation and how will the addition of 2nd Rd pick QB Pat White impact their packages and schemes?

Are 3rd year receiver Ted Ginn Jr and running back Ronnie Brown (there are organizational questions about his toughness) ready to have breakout “Pro Bowl” type seasons?

Will Dolphins starting quarterback Chad Pennington stay healthy for a second straight season and if not are any of his back-ups (Chad Henne and White) ready to be #1?

How will the return of former Dolphins star DE/OLB Jason Taylor affect LB Joey Porter (17.5 sacks in 2008) and a defense that led the NFL in turnover ratio (+17)?

New England Patriots

How healthy is QB Tom Brady (knee) and in case he is not 100% does the team have confidence in backups Kevin O’Connell and Andrew Walter?

Are there enough carries to go around in a very crowded Patriots running back group (Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Sammy Morris)?

Will the Patriots be able to workout a new contract for Pro Bowl NT Vince Wilfork and if he doesn’t get his new contract how much of a distraction will he be this season?

How will the losses of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (Broncos), front office executive Scott Pioli (Chiefs), and veteran SS Rodney Harrison (retired) affect head coach Bill Belichick and the team?

Will QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss, and the rest of the Patriots offense pick right back up to their 2007 high-flying ways (NFL record 589 points scored)?

New York Jets

Will it be 1st rd pick Mark Sanchez or 3rd year veteran Kellen Clemens as the Jets starting quarterback in 2009?

Other than emerging TE Dustin Keller, which pass catcher (Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, David Clowney, Marcus Henry or Chansi Stuckey) will step up to replace the 70 catches that Laverneous Coles took with him to the Bengals?

After a breakout season in 2008 where he scored 9 TDs in a part-time role, will the Jets be able to sign holdout RB Leon Washington, who wants a MJD type deal (our-year, $31 Million contract includes $17.5 million guaranteed)?

Is new head coach Rex Ryan ready to assume the role of a head coach and how will the Jets adjust to his brash style and attacking “46” defense?

How will the Jets defense handle pass rusher Calvin Pace’s 4-game suspension and is still developing former 2008 first round pick Vernon Gholston ready to setup in Pace’s absence?

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2008 NFL Playoffs: Ravens at Dolphins

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at Miami Dolphins (11-5), 1 p.m., CBS

Broadcasting Team: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms

Two of the NFL’s biggest surprise teams will be looking for “Respect” as they square off in a very interesting AFC wildcard match-up.  When the season started if you had told me the Dolphins (1-15 in 2007) and Ravens (3-13 in 2007) both with rookie coaches would be playing each other in the playoffs, I would have told you that you were crazy.  But reality has set in and yes these two upstarts will be meeting on Sunday. 

It will be a match-up of Miami’s efficient offense against Baltimore’s ball-hawking defense.  The Dolphins tied with the New York Giants for the league lead this season in fewest giveaways, turning the ball over an NFL record-low 13 times (7 interceptions, 6 fumbles lost), while the Ravens forced 34 turnovers (26 interceptions, 8 fumbles recovered) – the most in the league in 2008.  Expect a lot of running the football on offense for both teams and attacking defenses looking for turnovers on the other side.  The last time these two met on October 19th in the same spot – Dolphin Stadium, the surprising result was an easy 27-13 Ravens win.  The Ravens were (2-3) at the time and it took a solid effort from running back Willis McGahee (105 yards) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (44-yard interception touchdown return) to propel them passed the Dolphins. 

In the October game, the Ravens attacking defense negated Miami’s “Wildcat” offense — produced only four yards in five plays – but you can expect the Dolphins to try and bring the single-wing attack back for the playoffs.  The Dolphins behind rookie Tony Sparano and a front office led by Bill Parcels have built a team that truly believes in themselves as shown by their 24-17 dismantling of the Jets in Week 17, which gave them the AFC East title.  The Dolphins have won 9 of their last 11 games since the loss and they will be looking to fuel their home crowd with a playoff victory.  The Dolphins will look to 2008 NFL Comeback Player of the Year quarterback Chad Pennington (321-476, 3653 yards, 19 TDs, and 7 INTs) and Wildcat QB/Running back Ronnie Brown (916 yards rushing and 10 TDs) to stymie the Ravens ferocious defense led by Pro Bowl Safety/Probable NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed (NFL Leader with 9 INTs).  Miami finished the season with the second fewest interceptions in the league (7 to Washington’s 6) and Baltimore had the most pickoffs with 26.   

We all know about the Dolphins “Wildcat” offense against Ravens’ defense led by future hall of famer Ray Lewis, but to me the key to this game is the play of Ravens’ rookie quarterback Joe Flacco (257-428, 2971 yards, 14 TDs, and 12 INTs). Though the former D1AA passer has looked efficient all season including in late season wins over the Cowboys and Jaguars, he will be facing a defense that leads the NFL in turnover ratio (+17).  The Dolphins are high on the turnover margin, because their offense protects the ball and on defense, linebacker Joey Porter (17.5 sacks for first in AFC) leads a unit that is underrated but is almost as fierce as the Ravens. Flacco will need to avoid pressure while distributing the ball to TE Todd Heap and receivers Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason.

LV’s Pick: Though the Ravens have won 2 of the last 3 meetings between these two teams, I have a feeling the pressure of a big spot may get to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco — Ravens only 2-5 versus playoff teams in 2008.  The Dolphins are at home and Pennington looks like he has turned back the clock to his New York Jet glory days.  The Dolphins hold a 5-2 edge lifetime in this series, so I expect the Dolphins to buck the trend of the road teams winning by squeaking out a 16-13 victory in a black-and-blue defensive game.

Dolphins Breakout Wildcat Offense in Their First Win by Lloyd Vance

RB Ronnie Brown and the Miami Dolphins’ Wildcat Formation was running “Hog” wild in their first win of the season over the ill-prepared New England Patriots

I have been saying for years that some form of an “option” style offensive attack could work in the NFL in certain packages/situations.  With a plethora of college and high school quarterbacks running Urban Meyer’s spread-option offense, there maybe a need in the future for the NFL to work towards some running quarterbacks strengths by running some option schemes.

Surprisingly, it was the rebuilding Miami Dolphins and their heady offensive coordinator Dan Henning that found a way to surprise the entire NFL by running a form of the option in their out of nowhere 38-13 road upset of the New England Patriots.  In the win that stopped the Patriots’ 21-game regular season consecutive win streak (last loss was 21-0 loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 10, 2006), Henning borrowed a page from the 2006-07 Arkansas Razorbacks’ playbook by instituting their “Wildcat Offense”.

At Arkansas the offensive scheme was very successful as Heisman runner-up running back Darren McFadden lined up as a shotgun quarterback and caused all kinds of havoc taking a direct snap while either running or throwing the ball.  The Dolphins  — current QBs Coach and former Arkansas assistant David Lee instrumenal —  used the same scheme to perfection using running back Ronnie Brown in the role of McFadden six times versus the bewildered Patriots.  The ‘Phins churned out 216 rushing yards and Brown (17 rushes for 117 yards and 4 TD’s) was spectacular to say the least as a part-time quarterback.  The former Auburn star set a Dolphins franchise record by running for four touchdowns including runs of 2, 5, and 62 yards.  For good measure and to keep the defense honest, Brown also threw a perfect left-handed 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fassano.

With veteran quarterback Chad Pennington (17-20, 226 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) still leading the team, I doubt we will see the “Wildcat” offense no more than 5 to 7 times a game for the Dolphins… But boy is it fun to watch.  Maybe in copycat fashion the rest of the NFL will join the Wildcat movement.

Marcus Vick Re-Surfaces by Getting into Trouble

Marcus Vick looking like Michael Vick in his recent mug shot

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Ever since Michael Vick’s who let the dogs fight incident has taken center stage, I have wondered “Where is his brother former Virginia Tech “bad boy” quarterback Marcus Vick.  Apparently Vick II wants to continue in his big brother’s footsteps not on the gridiron, but in having problems with the law.

Vick II will not be joining his imprisoned famous brother, but according to a report by the newspaper Virginian-Pilot he maybe in trouble in Norfolk, VA.  Vick II faces serious charges of charged with DUI, misdemeanor eluding police, reckless driving and driving on a suspended license after a brief chase that police say began with him trying to escape a bicycle officer around 2 a.m. today. 

Vick was allegedly arguing with a woman inside his car when the officer approached causing Vick to speed off.  The same newspaper article reported that the former Miami Dolphins receiver failed a sobriety test.  Vick was released on a $1,000 dollars bond and he is due in court on Monday.  This event is another dark spot on Marcus Vick’s resume as he had numerous run-ins with the law during his 3-year career at Virginia Tech.  I always thought that if he got his head on straight that Vick II could be a good minor league quarterback.  But other than Vick’s one season audition with Nick Saban’s Dolphins in 2006 (practice squad mostly with 1 regular season game played, 0 catches, and one fair catch on a punt), he has not made an effort to get back on the field.  I don’t know if it is a hangover from his brother Michael’s ordeal or that the younger Vick just doesn’t have a passion to play football any longer.

I have often said that “Marcus Vick loves being the spoiled little brother of Michael Vick” and that he needs to make his own path.  Hopefully this latest incident will finally wake Marcus Vick up enough to show him that he is throwing away his talent of playing football.  We have already seen the comeback of Kansas City Brigade quarterback Quincy Carter this year – still battling his own demons with drugs, but he is back in the Arena Football League – and hopefully it can inspire Vick II to overcome his obstacles by getting back into football.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)