The phrase of the day is “Wildcat Formation”. The Wildcat formation is a formation that the Miami Dolphins added to their game plan against the New England Patriots* in 2008 as the 0-2 Dolphins defeated the 2-0 Patriots* ending their 21 game regular season winning streak* (NFL Record at the time). It was also the first loss of Matt Cassell’s NFL career.
On a plane ride home from somewhere out west (Arizona I think), Head Coach Tony Sparano asked if any of his coaches had any ideas on how to stop the Patriots*. Even without Tom Brady,* they were a formidable opponent. As it turns out, this loss in September contributed to the Patriots* missing the playoffs. One of the Dolphins assistant coaches had been on the staff at Arkansas where Darren McFadden had some success running what the Razorbacks called the “Wild-Hog”. They installed it during the week and worked it throughout the game hammering New England* with it.
The formation splits the QB out wide (see #10 Chad Pennington above). A running back, in this case Ronnie Brown (#23) lines up behind the center to take the direct snap. One version would have Ricky William (#34) come in motion and with timing/practice would have him getting to Brown about the time Brown had just received the snap. Brown could then hand off to Williams, to run the ball. He could keep it himself (navy paths above), or in some cases he’d throw the ball. One could argue that Denver ran a version of this during the Timmy Tebow experiment, but I’ll be nice and leave it at that. Another version would have the WR on the right come in motion (white line) and with the same timing concept, he’d run a Jet Sweep around the end. There was a lot of deception and mis-direction and it caught the best defensive mind this game has seen, in Bill Belichick*, by surprise and they couldn’t recover on that Sunday afternoon in New England*.
As you can see by the stat line Ronnie Brown had himself quite a day. Running for 4 touchdowns and throwing for another. On the season he threw two TD passes out of it. Other teams experimented with various versions of it on their own, but Miami was the first to break out it.
It was a fad, and you’ll see it every now and then, and teams still likely have a better idea to stop it. Most DC’s probably have a section on it in a game day notebook someone in the booth with them. If they don’t, they should, because you never know when a team might ding up a QB and feel the need to pull it out and try to steal a win like the Dolphins did vs the Patriots*.
Later in the season, New England* hammered the Dolphins 48-28 so it clearly didn’t sustain its success. Fads never do.
“Wildcats” was a 1986 football movie, starring Goldie Hawn as a spunky female high school football coach. Woody Harrelson also stared in the movie.