The Dolphins defense showed itself vulnerable to the no-huddle attack last week.
Defensive players seemed vulnerable in their conditioning because players looked gassed as they stood at the line of scrimmage, mouths agape as they gasped for air, their hands on hips.
They seemed vulnerable in their physical preparation because several players -- including cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith -- suffered from cramps. Cramps can be prevented with proper hydration, IVs, even fruit. But you have to have a regimen of hydration for long periods of time to ensure it will work.
And finally, the Dolphins seemed vulnerable in getting players on the field.
I want to deal with the last of those today.
The Patriots no-huddle is interesting in that they run players on and off the field before they snap the ball. Traditional no-huddle attacks try to catch you in one personnel grouping they think they have an advantage in and keep that group on the field to wear you out while pressing that singular advantage.
The Patriots are different. The mix and match group as they run the no-huddle. When they get into a rhythm, it's a stunning thing to see because it happens fast, it's precise, and obviously involves a good amount of forethought.
The Dolphins (and any defense for that matter) hasn't the ability to respond with forethought because coaches cannot count on always guessing correctly what group the Pats will scramble onto the field before they actually do it.
Miami did, nonethelss, try to match New England with its own personnel changes even in no-huddle situations. It didn't work out as well as folks might have wanted. The Dolphins were forced to call time out at least once to collect themselves. They were caught with 12 men on the field once. They were caught not ready for the snap of the football at least once and Tom Brady completed a pass to Deion Branch against Nolan Carroll as a result.
"They caught us a couple of times trying to sub and get matched up," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "Look, they do it to us every year. They get into this every year so we were ready for it. We just didn't handle it as well as we wanted."
The problem is no longer how they handled or failed to handle it last week. The problem becomes w]how the Dolphins handle no-huddle operation in the future -- like, oh, Sunday against the Texans. In the NFL, you see, when a team shows a weakness, opponents pick at that weakness like a scab in ensuing games until someone becomes convinced it has been addressed.
"We know we’re going to see [the no-huddle] week in and week out now," Bell said.
It doesn't matter that the Patriots and the Texans run vastly different offenses -- the Texans a West Coast offense, and New England a more vertical attack. No-huddle is universally available to everyone.
So how do the Dolphins respond? I look for them to adjust on several fronts. I assume they've worked on getting certain groupings on the field faster this week. I assume defensive coaches will try to speed up their decision-making to help get the players on the field faster.
And I know there will be some plays where the Dolphins might just have to line up with what they've got and simply ball. That's what Bell thinks should have happened more often against the Patriots.
"We should have just kept personnel on the field instead of trying to run guys off and on," he said. "Sometimes you just got to roll with it."