Taming The Wildcat In Foxboro

The New England Patriots were able to contain the Dolphins' greatest threat on Sunday, the Wildcat formation. Shane Leketa recalls the game and how it happened.

If you were to ask any Patriots fan out there to name the New England Patriots' arch nemesis, you would most likely hear two answers … The Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins.

The Colts response is understandable, but what is it about the Miami Dolphins that causes uneasy nervousness when the Patriots play against them? Maybe it's because last year when Tony Sporano unveiled wildcat offense which wreaked havoc on the Patriots defense. Was this going to be the same case in 2009?

On a beautiful day in Foxboro, the defense came to play. The Patriots kept the Wildcat offense at bay - for the most part. Even with a few new wrinkles, the new Wildcat was held in check.

After a Dolphins field goal started the scoring, the Patriots responded with a successful 63-yard drive capped off with a Laurence Maroney touchdown run. After adding a field goal the Patriots extended their lead 10-3.

Miami responded, tying the game at 10 all before the Patriots finished the half with a pair of field goals to take a 16-10 lead at the half.

Miami was able to get back into the game using the Wildcat on two successful plays. The first was a 15-yard run by Ricky Williams where he was able to get into the end zone untouched to tie the score in the first half. The second was a short pass by Ronnie Brown to the back of the end zone for another touchdown to take the lead 17-16 in the third quarter..

When coach Belichick was asked how they prepared for the Wildcat he explained some of the subtle differences the Dolphins unveiled in this game.

"It's not just one formation - unbalanced line, sometimes they motion, sometimes they don't, now White's running it, which he's run it before," Belichick said. "They throw off it. They try to double reverse pass - luckily, that was a play that we worked on in practice this week."

Belichick also stated that they practiced for the wildcat about 30 percent of the week. Obviously, the formation, and the new wrinkles were on the mind of the Patriots coach.

As a fan, I was quite worried about the impact that the Wildcat was having on the Belichick defense until Tom Brady and Randy Moss connected on a 71 yard pass play in the third quarter. Basically, the score put the final touch on a hard fought contest between two AFC East rivals.

Brady described the touchdown pass to Moss after the game by simply saying it was all Randy.

"It's always nice for a quarterback when you see the back of 81 sprinting down the field once he gets by them," said the Patriots quarterback. "There're not too many guys that can catch him. It was a great play, and we needed it."

Overall, taking a look at this game, the New England Patriots did some things well and some things definitely needed some work.

If I were to name the players who made positive impacts Sunday, some of the names on the list would be Leigh Bodden, Brandon McGowan and Randy Moss.

Bodden was all over the field causing havoc and breaking up passes throughout the entire day. McGowan did much of the same, breaking up passes, stuffing runs and helping the defense hold strong.

The Patriot defense has been a definite surprise with the amount of youth on the team. It is led this year by star linebacker, Jerod Mayo.

Moss was able to stretch the field and make catches across the middle, gaining 140 yards on the day. He might have been able to pad those stats a bit more if he was able to catch a pass from Brady that was intercepted earlier in the game. Dolphins rookie defensive back, Vonte Davis, made an amazing defensive catch. Despite the mistake, it seems as if Tom Brady is getting healthier, as is the cohesion between he and Moss.

The only portion of the game that needed some work was the tackling at the line. The defense definitely played hard, making solid hits, but they needed to wrap up more. Too often Miami players were hit at the line of scrimmage and continued on for bigger gains. If the Patriots defenders can wrap up the backs and wideouts at the line of scrimmage more effectively, then I don't feel this game would have been as close as it was.

Now it is time to turn our attention to next week's opponent. It is the annual showdown (except last year) between Tom Brady and the Patriots' other arch nemesis Peyton Manning. It is a game between two powerhouses in the AFC who will battle in Indianapolis. To the winner go the spoils and bragging rights. It will be a Sunday night matchup worth all the hype.

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