After the last Jets touchdown, the one that put them ahead by three points with 5:19 left, those thoughts about how much I hate writing these posts after losses started creeping into the back of my head. Thirteen plays later, I was quickly reminded that I should really never doubt the Miami Dolphins - when they wear the orange jersey, of course. That's when Ronnie Brown took the 'Wildcat' snap with ten seconds remaining and powered his way into the endzone to give the Dolphins a 31-27 win over the Jets in what will become a Monday Night Football instant classic.
Now us Dolphin fans can go into the bye week with our sanity intact.
So it is with much joy that we know talk about what we saw a few hours ago at Land Shark Stadium.
Henne has huge game in just second career start
Remember I said before Chad Henne's first career start that I wasn't going to buy into any of the hype? I said I'd wait until I saw something out of Henne with my own eyes. Well, my wait is obviously over.
While Henne did a decent job against Buffalo in his first career start at managing the game, he displayed some "special" qualities in Monday night's win over the Jets. He showed the poise of a veteran. He showed the arm strength of a great gun-slinger. And all told, he showed that he just might be the long awaited solution to Miami's long-term quarterback problem.
There were numerous defining moments in this win that involved Chad Henne. Let's talk about just some of them.
How about the two types of Henne's arm strength, which he displayed on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter. The first is the ability to zip it into a tight spot, which he showed on that critical 3rd & 3 play with 11 minutes left in the game - throwing a bullet to Anthony Fasano, who had David Harris draped all over him. On the next play, Henne then showed that ability to fling it deep but with great touch and accuracy - dropping a 50 yard pass right into the arms of Ted Ginn. It was perfectly in stride and was just an outstanding throw.
How about the ability to make perfect throws in the most pressure-packed moments late in a football game? Yup, he showed that the moment isn't bigger than he is. I think back to two critical plays on that eventual game-winning drive. The first was a 3rd & 5 play from NY's 30 with 2 minutes left. Henne took the snap and quickly floated a beautiful pass out left that was perfectly placed into the arms of Greg Camarillo. Three plays later, Henne rolled out right on a 3rd & 10 play, and threw a perfectly accurate pass on the run to Camarillo for another first down.
All game long, Henne also showed great awareness in the pocket, went through his progressions well, made good decisions, and showed that he has the toughness in the pocket to deliver an accurate ball with a defender bearing down and knowing a hit was coming.
Let's talk some numbers now. The Jets came into the game with the 6th ranked passing defense in the NFL, allowing just 177 yards passing per game. Henne threw for 241. The Jets were second in the league in QB rating against, with opponents having a combined QB rating of 56.4 when facing the Jets. Chad Henne's quarterback rating on Monday night was 130. That's better than Drew Brees (78.9) and Tom Brady (53.1) - despite those two teams having far better receivers.
Of course, don't underestimate the effect Miami's terrific ground attack has. Chad Henne was 7 for 7 when using play-action for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns.
I did just need to point out one thing from after the game. Rex Ryan, when speaking to the media, said, "We made that quarterback look like Dan Marino." Three problems with that. First of all, no. Marino would have put up even more yards and points. Second of all, "that quarterback" has a damn name - I suggest learning it. And third of all, could it be that Chad Henne made your defense look foolish rather than your defense making Henne look great? Just a thought.
Defense disappoints, but isn't as terrible as it looks
Obviously, the Dolphins didn't play very well defensively. They let one of the NFL's worst offenses (though they did have a new play-making receiver making his Jet debut) put up 27 points and gain over 300 yards of total offense. But before I talk about the negatives, let me just defend them a little.
Ten of New York's points came on drives in which the Jets picked up first downs out of their punt formation. In theory, those drives "should have" been over. Another three points came before the half when the Dolphins were clearly playing too conservative, giving the Jets the football at their own 44. And another touchdown came courtesy of a phantom pass interference call on Will Allen, who was defending Braylon Edwards but did nothing to even remotely deserve that flag. Even ESPN and NFL Network analysts agreed. That gave the Jets the ball at Miami's three. Who knows how that drive ends if that call isn't made.
I also wouldn't blame the defense for that ridiculous catch made by Edwards along the left sideline early in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Vontae Davis could have played the ball better in the air. Perhaps Gibril Wilson should have gotten over there quicker. Regardless, it was an amazing catch that only a handful of receivers probably make. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and that is an example of when to do so.
With all that said, there are still issues. Sean Smith, who put together a solid game all told, did miss a tackle early in the game turning a short pass into 19 yard gain. But that'll get corrected.
Will Allen did struggle. Even with that phantom pass interference call, Braylon still beat him and a more accurate pass results in a catch. He was also beat inside by Edwards for NY's first touchdown. He needs to step up. He played much better last year.
Vontae Davis also had some very bad plays. The most glaring was when he was caught peeking into the backfield on the play-action completion to David Clowney that resulted in 53 yards. Davis should have never gotten beat that badly. But he's an aggressive corner who will have to learn not to peek and bite on the play-action. Rookie mistake right there.
The rushing defense also struggled against what is a very talented NY offensive line. I really didn't envision the Jets gaining 138 yards on the ground (though to be fair, 26 of them came on a run by the punter). It seemed like every time Leon Washington touched the ball, he made had a hole to squeeze through, made a defender miss, and was one or two missed tackles away from a huge gain.
The biggest issue I had on the defensive side of the ball, however, was Miami's inability to get to Mark Sanchez. The Dolphins had one sack and forced one intentional grounding penalty. But on Mark's 20 or so other drop-backs, he had all the time in the world. Where were Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, and Cameron Wake? Did Porter even play tonight?
Ronnie & Ricky: What more can you say?
What is there to say about these two that hasn't already been said? They are simply outstanding. I'm now ready to call the Dolphins the best rushing team in the NFL. They ran for 150 yards on a talented Jets defense. That's just impressive - with a nod to the offensive line, of course, which just dominated the trenches.
Nobody runs the 'Wildcat' like Ronnie Brown. It's a beautiful thing to watch, to be honest. He has the vision, patience, burst, and power needed to effectively orchestrate the formation. I just hope the Dolphins' front office and coaching staff realize how special Ronnie is.
And did anyone see Ronnie up on the bench when the defense was on the field, trying to fire up the fans? I love it!
Ricky Williams, meanwhile, continues to thrive in his role as the complimentary back. He still has that terrific acceleration and power. But we saw on that screen pass that his long speed isn't what is used to be. In his prime, Ricky takes that to the house. But the man is 32 years old - which makes what he can do even more impressive.
One thing he shouldn't do anymore, though, is take the snap out of the 'Wildcat.' He just doesn't have what it takes to be consistently effective as the "quarterback" of that formation. Leave that role to Ronnie.
TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
If the Dolphins didn't pull out the win, I knew exactly what the "turning point" was going to be - the first fake punt that resulted in a 26 yard gain. But the Dolphins did win - and the turning point of the game, in my opinion, was that beautiful pass to Greg Camarillo on 3rd & 5 from NY's 30 with two minutes left. If Henne doesn't make that absolutely perfect throw to Camarillo against NY's jailbreak blitz, the Dolphins are facing a 4th down with 1:55 left and a 48 yard field goal needed to tie the game. But the Jets would have gotten the ball back with over a minute and a half left and some timeouts in hand, only needing a FG to win.
So Henne to Camarillo on 3rd & 5 with two minutes to go was Monday night's "turning point."
Some more quick thoughts on the win:
- The Dolphins desperately need a kick returner. Patrick Cobbs will never get the job done. He averaged just 18 yards per return on Monday. And on his three returns, the Dolphins began their drives at their own 21, 16, and 16 yard lines. At least Ted Ginn got it across the 30 on his lone return. He should probably handle the duties until the team finds a better option.
- Some cool stats. The Jets came into the game ranked 4th in total defense, surrendering 277 yards per game. They were also 5th in 3rd down conversions allowed, only letting opponents convert 31% of their 3rd downs. The Dolphins gained 413 yards and converted 64% of their 3rd downs. That's impressive.
- I alluded to it earlier but will say it again. I hate the conservative play-calling on Miami's final 1st half drive. Take some shots at at least converting a first down. Don't let the Jets get the ball back near midfield. That was playing "not to lose." And it almost cost them.
- Too many penalties almost cost the Dolphins.
- Ted Ginn made one play. Yes, it was a big one. But let's not go overboard. Let's just hope this starts to build his confidence back up and is a sign of things to come from the speedster.
- Nice to see Anthony Fasano making some plays again. But still, tight end will be a position of need next offseason.
- Was that really Channing Crowder making a play in the backfield? Yes it was, folks. But it was also Crowder getting lit up by little Leon Washington.
- Why did it seem like the ESPN announcers were making verbal love to the Jets all game long? Oh - because they were, that's why. I felt like I was listening to New York's local radio announcers all game long.
- Speaking of the telecast, I'm all for recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month. Hell - my girlfriend is half Cuban. But holy crap - do we need to see Spanish graphics and hear penalty calls in Spanish during the game? Really? During "Asian Heritage Month," do I get to look forward to hearing the ref speak Mandarin, too?
- Injury updates after the game, via Ethan Skolnick. Patrick Cobbs left on crutches. Teammates don't think he'll play again this year. Tough loss for sure. Meanwhile, Ricky Williams - who was seen limping off the field, but did return later in the final drive - "looked fine" leaving the locker room. That's good news. But now Lex Hilliard will have two weeks to get ready to roll as the third back in the 'Wildcat.'