Wildcat embedded in Dolphins offense

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

For the first time since the Miami Dolphins unveiled their Wildcat offense, they didn't win.

But the Wildcat remained a prominent facet of their game plan in Sunday's 29-28 loss to the Houston Texans in the waning seconds at Reliant Stadium.

The Wildcat is a fixture in the Dolphins offense. Many debated whether they could continue to use the ploy in which running back Ronnie Brown takes a direct shotgun snap and either runs, hands off or throws.

The Dolphins added some wrinkles Sunday. Chad Pennington connected with running back Patrick Cobbs on what could be described as a reverse flea flicker (Brown handed off to Ricky Williams for an apparent sweep, but then he flipped the ball to Pennington for the heave). Williams also took his first direct snap.

"This will basically go on for a while," Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" pregame show. "They'll do different things from it. They've got a lot of things they haven't shown yet."

Fellow analyst Keyshawn Johnson opined the Dolphins are limited by what they can do with the Wildcat because they don't have a big target to keep defenses more honest.

"It will stick around for a little bit, but knowing the offensive staff down there, knowing the people in personnel, this is just a little sprinkle of things to come," Johnson said. "At some point in time they are going to have to get back to the traditional style of playing football and the formations. They are going to have to get somebody -- that's not to say Ted Ginn can't get the job done -- [but] they need a big wide receiver."

ESPN researcher Doug Kern has charted the Wildcat and sorted the plays in just about every way imaginable.

What the situational breakdown shows is the Dolphins will run the Wildcat wherever and whenever.

Miami has used the formation 25 times, with Brown taking the snap on 24 of them. The Wildcat has gained 252 yards.

The Wildcat has produced six touchdowns and 11 first downs, but 14 times the Dolphins have gained 4 yards or fewer.

The Dolphins usually call a Wildcat play on first or second down (11 times each) and between the 30-yard lines (15 times). The Dolphins have tried it on back-to-back plays only five times.

They spread it pretty evenly throughout the game: eight in the first quarter, nine in the second quarter, three in the third quarter and five in the final quarter.

The Dolphins have called upon the Wildcat four times when trailing, four times when the game is tied, four times when leading by less than six points and four times when leading by 13 points or more.