The Miami Dolphins lost a heartbreaker to the New York Jets yesterday, dropping the game 23-20 in overtime. Miami dominated early in the game, but became conservative in the second half, and ended up losing because of it. The good news, however, is the Dolphins will get another shot at the Jets in just five weeks.
While the pain of losing a game to the Jets, and a game that it seemed the Dolphins were controlling, is the dominating reaction coming out of the game, the stat line does show, Miami was not as bad as we think they were this weekend.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill finished the game 16-for-36 for 196 yards, with one interception. Obviously, he has to play better than this in the future, but it really was a few rookie mistakes that got him. He started off the game hot, and drove the team, after the first of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez' two interceptions, to the first touchdown of the contest. The interception was clearly a bad decision by Tannehill, and, hopefully, something from which he will learn.
The Dolphins also seemed to change tactics during the game. Instead of sticking to the game plan, Miami began trying to use the referees to make their yardage. Suddenly, Tannehill was throwing ball after ball deep down the sidelines, looking for the illegal contact or pass interference penalties the referees had called so fervently at the start of the game. With those calls not coming, Tannehill's completion percentage took a horrendous dive.
The running game continued to be the strength of the Miami offense, gaining 185 yards on 43 carries. Second year running back Daniel Thomas, who had to take over as the primary running back after Reggie Bush left the game with an injury, had game highs in carries (19 - tied with Shonn Greene) and rushing yards (69). Thomas also had one of the two Miami rushing touchdowns.
Bush, meanwhile, fell to fourth in the NFL in rushing, despite averaging 6.1 yards per carry. His first half knee injury limited his ability to continue to gauge the Jets defense, but he still finished the day with 61 yards on 10 carries.
Rookie Lamar Miller carried the ball nine times for 48 yards, while fullback Jorvorskie Lane carried the ball twice for four yards, with the other Miami touchdown.
The receivers, meanwhile, were hit-or-miss all game. Davone Bess led the way with five receptions for 86 yards, giving him a 17.2 yards per catch average. Tight end Anthony Fasano also caught five passes, but it took 10 targets to get Fasano those five receptions, with Fasano gaining 47 yards.
But, that was not the worst catch-to-target ratio for the Dolphins this week. Against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2, Brian Hartline caught nine passes for 111 yards. This week, he was held to one receptions for 41 yards. Hartline was targeted nine times by Tannehill, but, to be fair, a good number of those were the deep balls that the Dolphins seemed to be trying to get the penalty flags.
The Miami defense was impressive throughout the game, with Kevin Burnett leading the way with nine tackles and one pass defensed. He teamed with Karlos Dansby on the most impressive tackle of the game, leaping over the pile to crush Shonn Greene at the goal line and force the Jets into a field goal.
Miami's defense has now tallied 17 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher (Bilal Powell led the way for the Jets with 45 yards), the best current streak in the NFL. The Jets, a "ground-and-pound" team, only rushed for 88 yards total in the game, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
Brandon Fields continued to kick the air out of the ball on his four punts yesterday, with a long of 62 yards. Fields' four punts average 58.8 yards per kick, which is a full five yards longer than the season average for league leader Thomas Morstead (New Orleans), and 8.6 yards more than Fields' season average entering the game.
But, the man who struggled on the field today was kicker Dan Carpenter. DC$ is the most accurate kicker in Miami history, but missed two field goals yesterday. His first miss, from 47 yards, came early in the fourth quarter, and would have given the Dolphins a 20-13 lead.
Carpenter would hit a 41-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20, and sent it into overtime. But, DC$ would again miss a field goal, this one from 48-yards, that would have won the game for the Dolphins. Both misses were wide left from the same side of the field.
"I let the team down. First of all there shouldn't have been an overtime. We should never have even been there," Carpenter said after the game. "I just didn't come through. It's something you don't want to do through, but you know there is nothing I can do about it now.
"I missed both kicks. There's nothing else to it. My position you have to have a short memory no matter what. Whether you just make 30 in a row or you miss three in a row, it doesn't matter. It's all about the next kick."
The Jets would drive down the field and kick the game winning field goal, in a strange sequence of plays. The Dolphins would block the first kick by Nick Folk, only to have it negated by a last second time out from Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. The "icing the kicker" timeout backfired, and Folk hit his second attempt, to win the game 23-20.
Clearly, the Miami defense is the strength of the team, with the offense having to run through the rushing attack. Tannehill was able to effectively move the ball at times through the air, and the team is starting to be able to find ways to get the passing attack to work. Overall, the game was a solid outing by the Dolphins.
But, damn, losing to the Jets sucks!