Running back Ronnie Brown is quite familiar with the New England Patriots from his tenure as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
During Brown's run with the Dolphins, the Patriots were, as they are now, the cream of the crop of the AFC East. Looking for an edge, the Dolphins sparked a revolution on September 22, 2008 when they brought the Wildcat formation back into prominence. Brown was the centerpiece of this package. He lined up as the quarterback and had the option to run or pass the ball creating an element of confusion. It was a rare time where Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was outcoached.
It was utilized primarily in the red zone. In six snaps as quarterback in the Wildcat, Brown ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in a 38-13 win. Brown finished the game with 113 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground and a fifth coming on his one pass attempt.
As Brown prepared this week for his first meeting with New England as a member of the Eagles, he recalled how the Wildcat formation didn't work in practice all week.
"Our defense was stopping it. Everybody was like, 'We're going to try this. This isn't going to work.' We couldn't get it to work the way we wanted to in practice, but we were able to have some success with it in the game. That was big," Brown said. "Our team was dedicated to making it work. Guys were making sure we were able to execute it the way we were supposed to be able to keep using it. Fortunately, it made a big impact and we were able to get a win most of all."
In 2008, Brown was the featured back for the Dolphins. This year, Brown is the third-string running back to the NFL's rushing leader LeSean McCoy and rookie Dion Lewis. Brown doesn't get many snaps each game, but last week in the win over the Giants he had a pivotal carry that helped get the win.
On a third-and-3 with 10:17 left in the game, Brown lined up as the fullback in an off-set I-formation with McCoy. The Giants were keyed in on McCoy, so when Vince Young handed the ball off to Brown he was able to plow up the middle 6 yards for the first down creating, once again, an element of surprise. It was the first of six third-down conversions on that drive which eventually resulted in the game-winning touchdown pass from Young to Riley Cooper. Brown admitted that it's been a challenge trying to remain mentally in the game when the snaps are so few and far between.
"I think it's tough because you're trying to make sure that you're in the game mentally from the sideline and keeping up and trying to figure out the tendencies of what they're doing on the defensive side of the ball," Brown said. "When you're thrown in there, the expectations are to execute the way you're supposed to. That's all I think about. What do I need to do on that play to help this play be successful? If I get the opportunity, I just try to make the most of it."
When the Eagles face the Patriots on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, Brown heeded to his teammates that the one thing to expect from the Patriots defense, despite their league-worst 404.2 yards allowed per game, is that they will be mentally tough.
"No matter what names are on the backs of the jerseys, you can expect those guys to be fundamentally sound and not making a lot of mistakes and be well-coached. I think that's something that Bill Belichick thrives off of, just making sure that guys know what they're doing and where they're supposed to be on the defensive side of the ball," Brown said. "Usually, teams like that are hard to beat because they don't commit a lot of mistakes. At the same time, when you do make a mistake they usually capitalize on it. It's hard."
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