Special Teams Ruled The Day For The Dolphins

Posted Oct 28, 2012

Darren Rizzi’s unit outdueled Mike Westhoff’s in the Meadowlands.

People tend to forget the role special teams plays in the outcomes of game – except when the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets play each other.

This afternoon was a memorable one for Miami’s special teams coordinator, Darren Rizzi, and a forgettable one for the Jets’ Mike Westhoff. Rizzi sent the message very early when he called for a successful onsides kick after Dan Carpenter’s 33-yard field goal and he never let off the gas pedal.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Darren Rizzi and Dave Fipp because they had an excellent game plan,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “The players obviously studied the plan, practiced the plan hard and executed it well. It was impressive to watch and there were some impressive things, no doubt about it.”

Even though the Dolphins’ offense didn’t get any points off of the surprise play it helped put the threat of trick plays and key adjustments into the mind of Westhoff and Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Jimmy Wilson’s blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Olivier Vernon late in the first quarter was an even louder salvo.

Punt blocks are rarely executed so well as this one was, with Wilson sneaking around the left side into a small gap past Tim Tebow and timing his jump perfectly as the ball was coming off of Jets punter Robert Malone’s foot. It looked like a blocked spike in volleyball and took a perfect bounced into Vernon’s waiting arms for a 10-0 lead.

“The last time we played them they pretty much whipped us on special teams so we knew we had to come hard on special teams,” Vernon said. “On that play Coach Rizzi told us to block the punt so we all just put our heads down and went after it like dogs. Jimmy Wilson came up with a great block and I was just there to finish it off. As soon as I saw it in slow motion and as soon as the ball came up my baseball skills came into play and I just caught it.”

Vernon wasn’t finished as right before the end of the first half he broke through the line and got high enough to deflect the 35-yard field goal attempt of New York’s Nick Folk to keep the score at 20-0.

As for Wilson, he was still pumped up from his sack of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on the play before the blocked punt, with his only regret being that he didn’t strip the ball from Sanchez. He had successfully blocked one last year against Philadelphia and felt he was due.

“It’s rare that things work out exactly like you practice it and when Coach Rizzi called that play I knew to not be late on it,” Wilson said. “Tebow had to take either me or Jon Amaya and he ended up taking Jon Amaya and left me wide open for the block. I’m just glad O.V. was there to pick it up and get the touchdown. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it like I did against St. Louis.”

The players that were not on special teams credited that unit with turning the game in Miami’s favor and it allowed the defense and the offense to play downhill for the majority of the game. Center Mike Pouncey, who was at the center of the war of words leading up to the game, felt it from the start.

“They set the tone and put us in situations where we were on the plus side of the field instead of playing backed up,” Pouncey said. “That helped us out a lot. It opened up our playbook a lot more, allowed guys to get open and opened up more holes. It was just a great performance out of those guys.”
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