Miami coaches had 'Wildcat' familiarity

September, 22, 2008
9/22/08
2:18
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks coach David Lee is getting much of the credit for installing the gimmick offense they ran Sunday to flummox the New England Patriots.

Running back Ronnie Brown scored four rushing touchdowns in a 38-13 rout. Brown also threw a touchdown pass.

The Wildcat offense, as the Dolphins call it, put Brown in a shotgun formation, spread quarterback Chad Pennington wide and lined up Ricky Williams as a wingback who would counter. The Patriots were fooled out of their socks.

Lee used that ploy at Arkansas with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

But Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning ran a similar system before in the NFL -- and to a much higher degree.

Henning was the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator when they found themselves in a bind heading into a December 2006 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

  • The Panthers had lost four straight games (the Dolphins had lost 20 of their past 21 games).
  • The Panthers were coming off an embarrassing 37-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (the Dolphins were coming off an embarrassing 31-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals).
  • Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was injured, and backup Chris Weinke was too hurt to practice during the week and hadn't won in 17 career starts (Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington had been ineffective through two games).
  • The Panthers had two capable rushers in DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams (the Dolphins have two capable backs in Brown and Ricky Williams).

Henning's solution was to snap directly to DeAngelo Williams and hand off to Foster.

Unlike the Dolphins, who picked their spots with the Wildcat, Henning went full-scale with his gimmick.

The Panthers ran 52 times that day and held the ball for nearly 42 minutes in a 10-7 victory. The Panthers tried seven passes, one of them going for the game's only touchdown.

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