Kenyan Drake saw Gronk en route to TD, but ‘he wasn’t stopping me’

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Twenty-nine minutes after making the play of the year in the National Football League (and oh, there was some competition for it, even Sunday), man-of-the-hour Kenyan Drake of the Dolphins picked up the phone and told me a story about the weekend he was drafted in 2016. Miami plucked him in round three. When Drake got to team facilities after the draft, rookie coach Adam Gase greeted him with a smile.

“When I met Coach Gase,” said Drake, “he told me, ‘We drafted you to beat the New England Patriots.’ “

Now isn’t that convenient? What happened at 4:10 p.m. in south Florida, on a play the Dolphins call “Boise,” was so weird and so unlikely that the NFL didn’t even know what to call it. On the official National Football League Game Summary, the play that beat the aforementioned New England Patriots 34-33 with :00 left on the clock was listed thusly:

K.Drake 69 yd. pass play by R.Tannehill (1-69, 0:16)

Drake was credited with 55 receiving yards on the play, and a 52-yard touchdown, somehow, and you get the feeling everyone in Hard Rock Stadium was trying to figure out exactly what just happened. Including Drake, who was left on the phone trying to process the incredible play and the enormity of its meaning.

“Could you imagine ever making a play like that, to beat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots?”

“In my dreams,” Drake said, with a lot of mayhem in the background from the Miami locker room.

“Really. In my dreams.”

Remember: This was not only a cool play to beat the Goliath of the division. Miami has a trip to dangerous and likely desperate Minnesota coming this week, and if the Dolphins had lost, they’d have been 6-7, tied for ninth with Denver in the AFC playoff pecking order with three games to play. In other words, they’d have been on life support with a loss. “It was do-or-die for us, and we knew it,” Drake said.

“What helped us,” Drake told me, “is how much we practiced this exact play. We actually walk-through or jog-through the play every week. We go, like, half-speed. So we all knew what to do. It’s just a matter of doing it, and hoping it goes your way.”

“Why ‘Boise?’ “ I asked.

“You know, as a testament to that Boise State-Oklahoma game,” Drake said. The 2007 Fiesta Bowl, you may recall, when Boise use a hook-and-lateral play, a 42-yard miracle, to upset the Sooners.

Here, Sunday: Patriots 33, Dolphins 28. Ball at the Miami 31, seven seconds left. No timeouts. Ryan Tannehill took the snap, dropped to his own 21, and threw a strike to Kenny Stills at the Miami 45; he advanced it two yards and lateraled to DeVante Parker back at the Miami 45, and Parker ran to midfield. There he saw Drake, romping up the right sideline, with ace patriot linebacker Kyle Van Noy in close pursuit. Van Noy dove and caught Drake at the heels, but it was only enough to make him stumble, not go down.

“Then,” said Drake, “I was just looking for someone to toss it to. That’s the way we practice—there’s always someone for me to toss it to.”

Uh-oh. No one there, and no clear lane up the sideline. Drake cut inside, looking for daylight, and still looking for a pitchee. Unless you count Patriot defenders Adam Butler and J.C. Jackson, there were no good options for pitches. Miami guard Ted Lawson hustled downfield to make a key block on Patriot safety Patrick Chung at the New England 30.

And then, space.

“I was still looking for one of my guys, but then I had some open space,” Drake said. “That was amazing.”

Inside the 20, and here, at about the New England 12-yard line, came Rob Gronkowski, who was in the game at deep safety because New England had its Hail Mary hands team in the game. A rare mistake by Belichick; tackler extraordinaire Devin McCourt was not on the field for the play. But surely, Gronk would stonewall Drake.

Wouldn’t he?

“I saw him,” Drake said. “And I know how great he is. I know he’s going to the Hall of Fame. Awesome player. But regardless of who was there, he wasn’t stopping me. That I know for sure.” Gronk stumbled and never got a clear shot at Drake. Amazingly, with the division title on the line, after Van Noy, no Patriot had a legit chance to tackle Drake.

Drake threw the football half-a-section into the stands. Surrounded and pummeled in the end zone, all he remembers is a loud hum. “No words, just the hum. Dumbfounded. I am still in awe. Greatest play of my life.”

Well, what play could ever compete with that?

As for what it means, it gives Miami life; the Dolphins are one of four 7-6 teams in the conference now, and very likely only one of those will make the playoffs. Regarding the Patriots: It would take a very non-Belichickian collapse for 9-4 New England to lose the division, with a two-game lead over Miami with three to play, and the Patriots exit Sunday the number two seed in the conference. So they still have a good shot at the two seed and an outside shot at the one seed entering Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.

Knowing the Patriots, they’ll be able to erase the bitterness by Sunday in Pittsburgh. Just don’t expect it to go away in the next day or two.

MORE: Read Peter King’s full Football Morning Morning in America column by clicking here

Raiders favored on road against Dolphins on Sunday Night Football

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When neither team instills confidence it’s probably best to go with the more desperate team and the healthier quarterback – and the Oakland Raiders edge the Miami Dolphins on both counts.

The Raiders and QB Derek Carr are listed as three-point road favorites against the Dolphins with a 44-point total for the NFL Week 9 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

It is Oakland’s second consecutive game in the Eastern Time Zone, which should reduce how much sway its 4-20 straight-up record in its last 24 games in the East has over the proceedings. The same might be said of the Dolphins’ 11-0 SU mark in their last 11 home games against West Coast squads.

Oakland does have a 7-2 record against the spread across its last nine road games, but Miami counters that with a 6-1-1 ATS record over its last eight home games in November,

Oakland, 3-5 both SU and ATS, is ranked just 20th offensively in the 32-team NFL even though Carr is complemented by big names in both the passing and rushing phases. But Miami has allowed the second-highest opponents’ passer rating in the league and the trio of WR Michael Crabtree, WR Amari Cooper and TE Jared Cook might be able to exploit CB Xavien Howard and SS Reshad Jones.

There is a troublesome line matchup since Dolphins DE Cameron Wake usually lines up to the right of the quarterback, where Raiders RT Marshall Newhouse has been having a rough time of late.

The Raiders have RB Marshawn Lynch back from suspension, but it will be up their line to open holes against a quietly good Dolphins run defense.

The Dolphins, who are 4-3 SU and 3-3-1 ATS and just jettisoned RB Jay Ajayi in a trade-deadline deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, come into the game with QB Jay Cutler (ribs) banged up and trying to revive the NFL’s worst offense (by more than 27 yards per game than the 31st-ranked offense, no less).

Miami’s pass protection, which has been so-so, will have to shut down Raiders OLB Khalil Mack. And Mack is one of the NFL’s best edge defenders against the run, which could limit Miami’s ability to get new starting RB Kenyan Drake going.

One point in favor of the Dolphins offense – which, of course, scored zero points in a 40-0 loss against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8 when Matt Moore replaced Cutler – is Oakland has been brutal at playing the pass. The Raiders are the lone NFL team with zero interceptions and allow 8.0 yards per throw, and their coverage might be further compromised with cornerbacks David Amerson (foot) and Gareon Conley (shin) out of action.

Whether it becomes a favorable matchup for Cutler and the likes of favorite WR DeVante Parker depends on the pass  protection.

The total has gone under in six of the Raiders’ last eight games on the road, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone under in six of the Dolphins’ last eight games.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Seahawks, Packers headline betting favorites for Wild Card Weekend

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Neither Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks nor Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are on a hot streak, but home field and primetime could factor heavily into their matchup.

The Seahawks are listed as eight-point favorites against the Lions with a 42.5-point total in their NFC wild card game matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Seattle is 7-0 straight-up in their last seven home games against teams who hail from the Eastern time zone, and are also 20-4-2 against the spread in their last 26 primetime games.

The other similarity between Wilson and Stafford is the lack of a supportive rushing attack. The Lions’ pass-rush woes, apart from DE Ziggy Ansah and Kerry Hyder, might allow Wilson to get in a groove. The Seahawks’ pass defense has lost some of its identity since the season-ending injury to FS Earl Thomas, but Stafford will have to be pinpoint if he is to bring Detroit their first road playoff victory in 59 seasons.

The Green Bay Packers are 4.5-point favorites against the New York Giants with a 44.5-point total. The Giants, held together by FS Landon Collins, have perhaps the toughest pass defense of any team in the playoffs and could pose a riddle to red-hot Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s injuries at cornerback might hamper their ability to slow down Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham Jr., whose team is 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games against Green Bay.

In the AFC, the Houston Texans are favored by 3.5 points against the Oakland Raiders, who are down to a 0.4 % chance to win the Super Bowl at PredictionMachine.com, with a 36.5-point total on Saturday. The Texans contain short passes well and it might be too much to expect Raiders rookie QB Connor Cook to furnish a downfield threat.

While the Raiders’ defense is generous yardage-wise, they have an impressive 16 interceptions, which is coincidentally the same number that Texans QB Brock Osweiler has thrown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-point betting favorites against the Miami Dolphins with a 47-point total in the AFC betting matchup on Sunday. Traveling north with backup QB Matt Moore seems daunting for Miami, although Pittsburgh still has the the run-defense issues that led to Jay Ajayi scooting for 202 yards during a Dolphins win in October.

Miami is also 13-4 ATS in its last 17 games as a double-digit underdog. However, Miami can also be soft against the run and Pittsburgh, 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games as a favorite, has RB Le’Veon Bell.

The favored team is 3-7-2 ATS in the last three years in wild card games. Twelve of the 16 wild card games over the last four seasons have gone under the posted total, with one push.

The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs (the top two seeds in the AFC), as well as the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons (the top two seeds in the NFC) have a bye week before hosting divisional-round games on January 14 and 15. The lowest surviving seeds head to New England and Dallas next week.