Dolphins use Patriots’ Super Bowl scheme that shut down Rams to do it again
It was the Stupor Bowl all over again.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked jittery, confused, frustrated. Virtually every time he dropped back, there was a defender in his face. And too many times, a live ball was on the ground.
The mess in Miami on Sunday, with all those swarming Dolphins in their 28-17 victory, was reminiscent of the Rams’ loss to New England in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, when the high-flying Los Angeles offense could muster only a field goal.
No wonder. Brian Flores, coach of the Dolphins, came from New England and was the Patriots’ top defensive assistant in that fateful game. In fact, he was announced as Miami’s new coach a mere 12 hours after winning that Super Bowl.
“You can watch a game and see that a quarterback feels us,” Flores said. “I think that’s essentially what you’re looking for.”
Goff certainly felt defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah hit him from the blind side in the second quarter. The colossal hit jarred loose the ball, with linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel scooping it up and returning it 78 yards for a touchdown.
The Dolphins had four takeaways in the first half, along with an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown. In a snap, the home team went from a 7-0 deficit to a 28-7 lead. The Rams spent the rest of the game trying to play catch-up.
This marks the first time since 2014 that Miami has won three games in a row by at least 10 points. Historically, this franchise has given the Rams fits. The Dolphins are 12-2 in the all-time series between the teams and 6-1 at home.
Heading into Sunday’s afternoon games, the Dolphins moved to the top of the league leaders, allowing 18.6 points per game.
But Miami isn’t the 1985 Chicago Bears. Clearly, the Dolphins can crank up the heat on passers, but they have a lot of work to do on stopping the run. The Rams ran for 131 yards. But in falling behind by so much, and so early, they didn’t have the luxury of keeping the game on the ground.
The Rams’ problems with the pass rush surfaced early. Before Goff had his third completion, already three throws had been tipped at the line of scrimmage. That’s unusual for a 6-foot-4 quarterback who doesn’t normally have problems getting his passes over the reach of defenders. It was clear, he was rattled.
“The key to the game was just attack Jared Goff,” Ogbah said. “As a defense we did a good job rushing them, rushing coverage, going head to head, rolling all them boys back.”
Rolled back the clock too, and in a disturbing way — back to a time when Goff was far less confident, precise and protected. Too many of his passes felt like hold-your-breath gambles, and the field seemed 300 yards long.
The frustration was obvious. Said safety Eric Rowe: “When they tried a screen, that didn’t work. They tried a quick crosser, that doesn’t work. They tried a quick hitch, that doesn’t work. You could just see it on their face. Not just [Goff], the O-line and the head coach, they were like, ‘How are we going to stop this?’ Once we see that, that just gives us more confidence.”
The Rams didn’t make the necessary offensive adjustments to get traction, and all the momentum gathered with their Monday night victory over Chicago quickly evaporated in the humid South Florida air.
In fact, Miami defenders had taken note of all the attention the Rams defense received in that 24-10 drubbing of the Bears. All that became bulletin-board material for the Dolphins.
“Through the week, we caught wind of ‘Rams defense this, Rams defense that,’” Rowe said. “We’re like, man, they need to worry about our defense. People keep sleeping on our defense, and that’s fine. But we’re going to show up every week.”
This wasn’t just any week for Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The No. 5 draft pick was making his first start, and that was the big story leading up to the game. Yet he was not really a story, with the Rams dominating almost every significant offensive category, including yards (471 to 145), first downs (31 to eight) and time of possession, with L.A. holding the ball 13 minutes longer.
Tagovailoa had his first career touchdown pass — punctuated by all sorts of hugs on the sideline and an impromptu celebration dance — but the Dolphins were blanked in the second half, the seventh time in eight games the Rams defense has held the opposing offense to three or fewer points after halftime.
So it’s no wonder the young quarterback was subdued in his postgame videoconference.
“I don’t think I played to the standard of what this offense is capable of,” Tagovailoa said, almost sounding as if he lost the game. “There were certain plays where I could have stepped up and made the right throw, made the right decision. But I’ve heard it many times from the guys in the locker room: It’s good that we still came out with the win.
“Aside from that, thank God we’ve got a good defense.”
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