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Dolphins can't let Pats cramp their style

This is a true story: In the hours before game time on Novemer 15, Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith was feeling a little weary. He didn't feel quite alert enough, quite energized enough to play an NFL football game -- particularly one at night against the Buffalo Bills.

Smith needed a pick-me-up.

The Dolphins cornerback related this to Dolphins teammate Paul Soliai (they both are represented by local agent David Canter) and the mamoth defensive tackle offered a simple solution to the situation. Soliai told Smith to take a 5-hour energy drink.

And Smith did before warmups.

And then he took another after warmups.

And sometime around the third quarter Smith started feeling his body tighten up. And by the fourth quarter he felt paralyzed.

"In that third quarter I felt a little pinch and I said, 'I'm ok, never mind.' But in the fourth quarter it was all over," Smith said. "I talked to the doctor after the game and he asked if I took any energy drinks and I said, 'yeah I took two 5-hours' and he said that was the problem. All the caffiene dried me up and it was cold so I wasn't probably drinking enough water."

Smith left the game with cramps. And his backup Nolan Carroll, who had been benched for struggling with multiple defensive holding and interference calls, had to go back in. And then Carroll was flagged again, costing the Dolphins a first down.

"I actually tried to get back out there for a play and as soon as I got in my stance I locked up," Smith said. "I came right back out.

"I was extremely mad at Paul but there was nothing I could do about. Imagine flexing your led straight for an hour. Flex as hard as you can and then release. My muscles were sore after the game. It was ridiculous."

And I share with you this story because this Sunday when the New England Patriots come to town, the Dolphins can afford no cramping on the field (as they had against Buffalo this year and last year in the season-opener vs. New England). The Dolphins can afford nothing but showing that they are in tip-top shape and ready to play 70-80 plays and play them with little rest between snaps.

The reason?

The Patriots run a no-huddle offense that goes fast, fast, fast. The Patriots also churn first downs like they're butter. While the average team typically snaps 58 offensive plays, the Patriots are averaging nearly 78 plays per game. And they're doing this with little rest time between snaps.

That puts a strain on the defense and its players.

The Dolphins know this and they have been preparing for such a challenge in practice.

"I think the practice environment is where we’re doing the best job to simulate the things they are going to see in the game," coach Joe Philbin said. "That’s really what we’ve been doing. We’re reloading the next skill set of guys that are presenting the look as fast as we can.

"What typically happens in the week is there is somebody holding a card up and everybody is looking and then everybody is breaking. We’re kind of working the next play ahead and getting guys going and using some of our own language on very similar plays so we can get guys up and running and just simulate that pace. I think it’s gone well. We’ve had a couple snafus, but that happens."

So will it work? No idea. But obviously the Dolphins cannot let the Patriots cramp their style.

 

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