"If a deep ball is more like 50-50, then a fade route with practice is at least 70-30."
For the entirety of his six-year NFL career, former Dolphins wide receiver Oronde Gadsden welcomed any and all contested catches. The fade route was his favorite, and it was never more evident than in the 2000 game in Cincinnati.
Coming off a 4-12 season in 1999 and an 0-4 start to the new millennium, the Bengals dismissed Head Coach Bruce Coslet. Dick LeBeau was promoted to interim head coach and had his Cincinnati team ready to play against the 3-1 visiting Dolphins.
Scoring the first 13 points of the game, the underdog Bengals' shot across the bow was a shock to the Dolphins players.
"For them to have 13 points on our defense, that doesn't usually happen right away," Gadsden said. "You might get 13 points in the game but not usually right away. The offense had to step up, which was usually the other way around."
The offense and Gadsden would step up in the second half, but the momentum swung at the end of the first thanks to a massive defensive play from a guy that made a career out of game-changing moments.
With eight seconds to play in the first half and nursing a 13-3 lead, Bengals quarterback Akili Smith dropped back to throw from his own 35-yard-line. The risk far outweighed the reward of a potential 65-yard touchdown that probably would've had to come through multiple laterals. The ball did change hands on the play, but not in the way the Bengals hoped.
Jason Taylor, as he would do six times in his Hall of Fame career, stormed the quarterback's blindside, jarred the ball free and took off the other direction for six.
"We thought they'd run the clock out and we'd have to come up with a different game plan," Gadsden said. "We were surprised they passed, especially when you've got Sam (Madison) and Pat (Surtain) on the back end, Zach (Thomas) in the middle and J.T. coming off the edge. All I can say is, 'good luck.'"
"At times, J.T. was our best offense," former Dolphins wide receiver O.J. McDuffie said. "Corey Dillon was running well against us, Peter Warrick was playing well, but that was a huge mistake. Especially with a young quarterback like Akili Smith. J.T. made them pay."
Instead of reworking the offensive game plan with a 10-point halftime deficit, the Dolphins went to the break trailing by only three.
Then the floodgates opened.
"Momentum is real," Gadsden said. "A play like that didn't just give us points. It gives the offense some juice because we know we only have to score once or twice and the defense will close it out."
The offense would score, courtesy of the aforementioned Gadsden fade route. After a Lamar Smith 18-yard touchdown run put Miami on top 17-13, Gadsden went back-to-back with touchdowns from seven yards and 21 yards to create a 31-13 cushion in the fourth quarter.
Gadsden learned his high-pointing prowess on the hardwood. A two-sport star at Winston-Salem State University, Gadsden's work on the gridiron and the basketball court landed him a spot in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.
"Coming from a basketball background, when you get a matchup against a smaller corner, that just helps us," Gadsden said. "If you could time the jump and if you work with the quarterback enough times, you could master it. It was second nature to me."
The Bengals added a field goal late as the Dolphins moved to 4-1 with a 31-16 victory. Gadsden finished out the one of the best seasons of his career with 786 receiving yards and six touchdowns as the Dolphins finished the season 11-5 and AFC East champions.
"Everybody had been on top of their game that year," Gadsden said. "We did everything we were supposed to do and to get to 11-5 in the AFC East. That was tough to do."