The Dolphins had a very special friend that helped them beat the New England Patriots the first time the teams played Sept. 21. Readers, meet The Element of Surprise. Mr. Surprise, meet my readers.
Mr. Surprise introduced himself to the New England Patriots that game back in September when the Dolphins unveiled the Wildcat Package for the first time. He was there again when the Dolphins went with their unbalanced line. So surprise was on Miami's side in the first game.
And absent new wrinkles this week the Dolphins won't have surprise on their side. So will Miami's assignment be harder because it might not have surprise in the arsenal?
“Yeah, sure," coach Tony Sparano said. "There’s not the element of surprise, but there hasn’t been an element of surprise with the Wildcat since we played the Patriots, honestly. We play another team and we play them for the second time, that’s always the challenge. When you’re playing your division teams and you’re playing them the second time, there really are no secrets. You do what you do, and they know it and we’re sitting here and it’s Week 13 or whatever, Week 12. There are very few secrets.
"It’s going to come down to execution, it’s going to come down to turnovers, it’s going to come down to those kind of things. Maybe who’s a little bit more physical, all of those good things, and we understand that."
In that regard Dolphins players are comfortable believing surprise wasn't the primary reason they won the first game. The Dolphins say they won the game because of their execution.
“I think [surprise] played in, but at the same time you still have to go in and execute the plays no matter what you’re running," Ronnie Brown said. "Obviously for them to see the package and the lineup, it was a little different for them, but at the same time we still have to execute, people have to make their blocks. [Surprise] may have played a factor, but at the same time it came down to technique and fundamentals also.”
Knowing surprise can be a strong ally, the Dolphins want to make sure it doesn't work against them. They know the Patriots would love to pull something out of Bill Belichick's hoodie to surprise Miami defenders.
"You’ve got to prepare yourself for anything," linebacker Joey Porter said. "It can happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried that. We hit them with the Wildcat the first time we played them and caught them off-guard, so you imagine that they’re going to put some things in there to catch us off guard. They have the extra days to prepare, so they had a long week, so they can do a lot of things that we haven’t seen yet, but we’ll prepare ourselves. We’ll be ready.”