The dark, quiet plane ride home last week got Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano thinking. The sleepless night that followed got him planning...
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. — The dark, quiet plane ride home last week got Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano thinking. The sleepless night that followed got him planning. And the ruthless practices throughout this week got him hoping.
When it all came together, when an unorthodox game plan was paired with unblemished execution by running back Ronnie Brown in Sunday’s stunning 38-13 victory, Sparano did something no NFL coach had done to the New England Patriots in 21 consecutive regular-season wins before.
He stumped the genius on the other sideline, coaching the Dolphins to one of the greatest upsets in Miami’s storied history.
“I brought quarterbacks coach David Lee up to the front of that plane,” Sparano said, referring to the flight home after the 34-10 loss to Arizona. “We just chatted a little bit.”
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What they chatted about would lead to the use of innovative plays featuring Brown and Ricky Williams — plays that were dynamic enough to make New England coach Bill Belichick look like the puzzled victim rather than the relentless mastermind.
Brown rushed for a team-record four touchdowns and threw for another score, taking advantage of six plays that called for direct snaps to the running back.
When taking the snaps in a shotgun formation, Brown ran twice for short touchdowns, handed off twice to Williams, passed once to tight end Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard touchdown, and carried the final direct snap for a 62-yard touchdown.
“They had difficulty trying to figure out what we were doing,” said Williams, who took one of Brown’s handoffs for a 28-yard gain around the right end. “Ronnie is such a great athlete — you put him in that position, and you can utilize all of his ability.”
By the game’s end, Miami had handed Belichick his worst loss in Foxborough and snapped New England’s 21-game winning streak that dates to 2006.
A methodical passing game and a smothering defense might have been partly overshadowed by Brown’s unprecedented success, but the performances by quarterback Chad Pennington and linebacker Joey Porter (three sacks, forced fumble) were essential to the success as well.
“They executed the game plan on both sides of the ball to perfection,” Sparano said.
When Brown wasn’t rumbling, Pennington was picking apart the Patriots’ secondary to create an offensive balance that has been absent the first two games. Pennington completed 17 of 20 passes for 226 yards.