The one thing you knew this game would be is exciting. Whenever the Dolphins and Jets get together, it's an entertaining game. What we didn't expect was an offensive shoot-out with the two teams combining for over 800 yards of offense. And in the end, we saw what we did not want to see - a Dolphins loss.
Chad Henne nearly brought his team back. But he was intercepted on that final fourth down play, sealing the Jets 31-23 victory. Let's get to the headlines.
Defense falls apart
There's no question that Miami's defense got the Dolphins to 2-0 to start the season. But that doesn't mean we can't sit here on Monday morning and blame them for costing this team a chance to be 3-0. They did just that by allowing the Jets to gain 402 yards of offense and convert two huge third downs on their final scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.
On third and ten from the 50, Jason Allen makes a huge mistake (as Chris Collinsworth pointed out multiple times during the telecast) by not undercutting Braylon Edwards knowing he had safety help over the top. Then on third and goal from the 3, Allen gets called for that killer pass interference penalty that gave the Jets a first and goal.
That, of course, brings me to Jason Allen. If you ever need an example of how a player can go from hero to goat in seven days, you can point to Jason's performance tonight. He dropped two interceptions (though one would have been a hell of a catch). He gave up those two big plays I mentioned above. And you can't forget about the turning point of the game - his missed tackle on Edwards that allowed Braylon to trot 67 yards into the endzone, allowing New York to regain the lead just moments after the Dolphins had taken their first (and only) lead of the game.
Yes, he looked like that Jason Allen - the one we've all labeled a bust since he was drafted in the first round a few years ago. He was not very good tonight at all - we all know this. But you have to question the wisdom of the coaching staff. Why not put Vontae Davis on New York's best receiver? Why wasn't Vontae matched up with Braylon - particularly on that third and goal fade attempt that? Vontae is good enough to be matched up one on one with Randy Moss in a similar "goal to go" situation last year but not with Edwards this year?
To be fair, though, it wasn't just Jason Allen who cost this defense. Yeremiah Bell had a rough game. He missed a couple key tackles - like the first play of the fourth quarter, when Brad Smith ran out of the Wildcat for 16 yards on a 3rd & 15. And he was unable to defend Dustin Keller early on in this game. Again, you have to wonder what took the coaching staff so long to figure out how to take Keller away from the Jets? He was quiet for most of the game...after he catching two touchdown passes in the first 17 minutes of this game. By then, the Dolphins were in a 14-0 hole that they had to try to come out of.
The defense wasn't able to get off the field on third down, either. I mentioned the first play of the fourth, but there were many others. The first drive of the game for New York resulted in a touchdown after Mark Sanchez found Brad Smith on a 3rd & 10 play for a first down. We also had Chris Clemons get called for that unnecessary roughness call early in the second quarter that turned a would-be 3rd & 20 situation into a first down at the 36. Three plays later, the Jets took a 14-0 lead.
What about this Miami pass rush? It was completely non-existent. Mark Sanchez had all day to throw and the Dolphins officially recorded just one quarterback hit. Mike Nolan seemed to shy away from some of the pressure packages he had used in the first two games. To me, it seems like the defense was very vanilla. But against an inexperienced quarterback like Sanchez, wouldn't you want to get creative and force him to make quick reads against unique blitzes? I guess hindsight is 20/20.
The bottom line is this. The defense allowed a mediocre Jets offense to average 7.1 yards per play. When you do that, you lose.
Special teams play kills Dolphins
The most over-shadowed aspect of football is special teams. And last night, we saw how poor special teams play can absolutely cripple your chances of winning a game. Obviously the free three points the Dolphins handed the Jets (and, as poorly as they played, kudos to the defense for making a stand in that situation - with the help of a Jets penalty) by having a punt blocked and giving the Jets possession at Miami's 1 was the lowlight of the night for special teams. But the kickoff coverage unit was so very bad it was disgusting - surrendering 38 yards per kick return.
The Jets average starting field position was their own 31 - and that is despite a couple of booming punts by Brandon Fields. And on a couple of those returns, Brad Smith was a missed tackle away from scoring.
Is it time to consider the job status of special teams coach John Bonamego?
The Wildcat's time may have passed us by
I hate to criticize play-calling because it's a tricky thing to do. When the play works - like the Ronnie Brown run on the first play of Miami's final drive - it's a genius call. But if he is stuffed for no gain, it's an idiotic call. So I'm not going to criticize Henning for calling a pass on 3rd & 2 with 10 minutes left even though Ronnie was gashing the Jets on that drive on the ground. After all, if Henning calls a run and Ronnie gets nothing, everybody would be calling him too conservative.
With that said, we need to have a discussion with Henning about the Wildcat.
Listen, I understand that the Wildcat originally had a purpose. I know it was meant to cover up for other deficiencies this team had. And I still think the basic Wildcat runs can be effective plays in the right situations. But the timing of some of these calls from Dan Henning are just terrible. You don't call it when the passing game is just getting into a rhythm and has moved the ball down the field for the first time all game - as Henning did early in the second quarter. You don't let Ronnie Brown throw the ball late in the third when it's a one point game. And you certainly do not call a Wildcat reverse to Patrick Cobbs on 1st down from NY's 36 in the fourth quarter of a four point game.
The Wildcat was run 7 times last night for 3 yards and is becoming a drive killer. Enough might finally be enough...for at least a little while.
Some more quick thoughts on Sunday night's loss:
- I thought this might finally be the game Brandon Marshall breaks out. Now we can see the kind of unique play-maker he can be. If only he'd made it all the way to the endzone on that final catch...
- I told you, guys - Chad Henne didn't forget how to throw it. He looked every bit like the kind of quarterback you can build a team around. He shook off some early jitters to put together an outstanding game. He showed he has the mental toughness you need in this league to succeed as a quarterback. He looked like a leader. It never once seemed like the moment was too big for him. Late in the game, he was calm. He was accurate. And one interesting note - he looks so much more comfortable out of the shotgun. The Dolphins have got to use more shotgun in obvious passing situations from here on out.
- Red zone efficiency was a problem on Sunday night - particularly when they had a 2nd & goal from the 2. Settling for a field goal there was tough to swallow.
- Ricky Williams - practice holding onto the football. My heart can't handle these fumbles anymore.
- Speaking of running backs, we need to see more Ronnie and less Ricky. Williams can still be effective. But Brown is the better back at this stage and he needs more carries. His ball security is also not as much of an issue as Ricky's.
- Cory Procter out-played Pat McQuistan at right guard, replacing the ill John Jerry. That was obvious.
- Davone Bess is awesome. That is all.
- Brian Hartline with a second straight strong game. Good to see - maybe his critics will quiet down for a few.
- If only Kendall Langford hangs on to that ball...
This was a tough loss and it's going to make this week difficult to enjoy. But there were positive signs to take out of this game and the Dolphins still sit at 2-1. The best remedy to recover from this loss? How about a Monday Night Football victory over the Patriots next week to get to 3-1 before the bye?