The Dolphins offense was ineffective against the Seattle Seahawks to put it lightly– ranking 29th in yards and 30th in scoring in Week-1. The defense halted countless Seattle drives and forced multiple turnovers, giving the offense chance after chance to put just three more points on the board. With that said, the offense did construct a pretty touchdown drive at the end of the fourth quarter to go ahead by four points. The natural question is: What did the Dolphins do differently on that drive?
While the answer is complex, as it usually is in the NFL, there are a few things that come to mind.
Defenses tend to change what they do toward the end of games. They tend to play more conservative in the backfield with more prevent style packages. The Seahawks did just that.
Another change is the Dolphins decision to put Ryan Tannehill under center on more snaps, instead of the faster working, but more telling shotgun. The Dolphins also utilized play action on the scoring drive.
As depicted in the image below, play action generated cleaner pockets, giving Tannehill time to go through reads deeper down the field because it softened the pass rush. The image below is off the first snap of the scoring drive, and Tannehill has one of the cleaner pockets he had all day. Not only does the play action throw off the linebackers, it provides an extra blocker in the running back. The pass rush on the edges is stuck in man to man, and the offensive line has a one man advantage on the interior.
Seattle’s switch to man coverage snaps in favor of zone coverage, enabling Miami’s receivers to set up in the holes of the coverage. This is something that was surprisingly successful for both teams’ offenses throughout the game. This results in a big completion.
The next image is of a snap latter in the drive that also incorporated play-action. This time Seattle applies less pressure from the linebacker position, perhaps in response to play-action success earlier in the drive. This leaves Tannehill two wide open pass catchers on the right side of the line as bail-out options in case the receivers downfield can’t get open.
The setup provides enough protection and time for Tannehill to find Landry wide open downfield long after the play breaks down, as seen below.
Based on the downfield shots below, it’s clear throughout the drive that the changes at the line of scrimmage, paired with Seattle’s zone coverage, enabled more separation for the wide receivers. On both snaps depicted, every receiver has some amount of separation, if not a considerable amount.
Finally, after a long day of being shut out–all the emphasis on the passing game during this drive pays off. Adam Gase has given Tannehill the option to take what he sees, capitalizing on the quarterback’s well established football IQ and ability to run, rather than forcing him to throw an endzone corner fades, which is a notorious weakness for him. Tannehill accurately notes the four gaping holes at the line of scrimmage along with a free lead blocker, and takes the ball to the endzone on a keeper.