The Dolphins haven’t had much to cheer about in 2019. Miami’s intention to tank its way through the season and rebuild in 2020 was clear back in spring, and this fall’s 2-9 record was very much in line with the team’s unspoken journey to the top of next year’s draft.
The Dolphins were 10.5-point underdogs on their home field when they faced the Eagles in Week 13. That meant first-year head coach Brian Flores had to get creative if he wanted to pull off the upset against a more talented Philadelphia team. And he got the opportunity facing fourth-and-1 in the second quarter of a 13-7 game.
The Dolphins lined up for a field goal, then split their line into three pieces — four blockers, including kicker Jason Sanders settled in to the left. Three stood to the right. One remained the center, and behind him was punter/holder Matt Haack. It was a lineup that had extreme Colts-Patriots debacle implications if handled incorrectly — widely regarded as the worst trick play ever, and one that Flores watched firsthand as a member of the New England coaching staff back in 2015.
But Haack, who used to wing passes to his gunners in practice at Arizona State and went a perfect 1-for-1 as a passer in college, was more capable than Griff Whalen was years ago. He ran left, drew the attention of a handful of Eagle defenders, and then flipped the ball into the end zone to Jason Sanders for a classic punter-to-kicker combo. It was the first time a kicker had caught a touchdown pass in the NFL since 1977. Miami calls it “Mountaineer Shot.”
“I loved it,” Sanders told reporters after the game. “How often do you get to see a kicker touchdown. Or even a punter throw to a kicker? I think that is the unique part.”
“They called the play and then everything just happened so fast. I got set outside and they gave us the look we were looking for. I know the ball was going to be snapped and right when he said set, I was like, “Alright. It’s on.’”
The play will immediately go down as the most memorable highlight of the Dolphins’ 2019. And it should stand as the template for how Flores should face the rest of a trying rookie year.
The Dolphins have nothing to play for in 2019. Let’s get wild.
Miami didn’t just run a fake field goal on fourth-and-1; it ran a completely bonkers one. Rather than try to beat the Eagles in the trenches or settle for a field goal as a double-digit underdog, Flores turned to a barely creased page in his playbook and gave the world the find of fake rarely seem in the NFL.
And it. Was. Awesome.
The Dolphins have nothing left to play for in 2019 but draft position and the chance to ruin their opponents’ postseason stock. They don’t have the pure talent to do the latter — the club ranks 30th in scoring offense and 32nd in scoring defense — but trickery like the kind we saw Sunday can be an equalizing factor as Miami wears through 2019. More importantly, it could provide a much-needed reason to watch a rarely competitive team with an abject lack of star power.
Except for Haack, who is clearly a stud.