Just win, baby.
The Miami Dolphins (7-5) pulled out a 16-13 victory in dramatic fashion against the lowly New York Jets (2-10) on Monday Night Football. The Jets may not have a great record, but they were determined to give the Dolphins all they could handle at home in primetime.
Here are seven thoughts from the game as well as notes & quotes:
1. Dolphins run defense was awful
We'll start here because even though the Dolphins won, the lack of run defense was extremely troubling. The Jets ran for 277 yards on 49 attempts against the Dolphins on Monday, an absolutely embarrassing number for Miami. It was obvious that the Jets gameplan was to run the ball, but the Dolphins defense was simply manhandled for a second straight week.
To add to that, Miami's defense was embarrassingly fooled on misdirection plays multiple times, including on the Jets lone touchdown of the night which came on a reverse to receiver Greg Salas.
The Dolphins run-stopping woes are a whole front-seven issue. The Dolphins defensive line was getting blown off the ball and the linebackers were out of position or missing tackles in the hole.
The good news is that Miami was able to make...
2. Haltime adjustments
The halftime adjustments made in this game, particularly on defense, was a huge factor in the final outcome of this game.
The Dolphins defense allowed 210 yards on 29 carries in the first half. The Dolphins defense allowed 67 yards on 20 carries in the second half.
The Dolphins started to stack the box after halftime because they realized the Jets weren't going to throw the ball with Geno Smith.
The Jets wanted to win. They knew riding their strength, the run game, would be the way to do so. When Miami realized the Jets weren't at all interested in "evaluating" Smith as a QB moving forward (as the team had implied heading into the game), and that New York simply wanted the victory, the Dolphins rightly shifted their focus towards stopping the run.
3. A domination? Not quite
If you remember my "5 things to watch" article from Monday morning, I said that this game should be a domination by Miami in a showing of how far they've come since 2013's season finale loss to the Jets.
Well, I was wrong. If anything, it was a domination by the Jets (for most of the game). However, the Dolphins did in fact show how far they've come since last season.
In last year's Week 17 matchup between these two teams, the Dolphins were faced with a one possession game in the fourth quarter. The difference, though, was that team did not make the plays in the fourth quarter to win the game.
4. A December win
Good teams find a way to win in December. Winning teams find a way to pull out a win when things aren't going their way.
Things certainly weren't going Miami's way. After a momentum-swinging blocked punt by Dion Jordan midway through the third quarter, the Dolphins first play was an interception that softly popped up into the air off of Lamar Miller's hands as he tried corral it off of the turf. That interception was then returned 25 yards to the Dolphin 30-yard line.
Despite this, and a few other unfortunate events, Miami found a way to win this game by coming together and performing in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins showed great...
The Dolphins showed just how resilient a team they are on Monday night. The Dolphins trailed for nearly the entire game, but were able to tie the game, and eventually take the lead, in the fourth quarter of the game. Both drives were impressive after a shaky Dolphins offense put up just six point to that point in that game. The Dolphins fourth quarter efficiency highlighted their resilience, which I will come back to...
The Dolphins also showed great resilience on defense. Despite how awful Miami's defense played against the run, the defense stepped up when it mattered, in a situation they had failed to produce in three other times this season.
After allowing a first quarter touchdown, the Dolphins defense consistently stepped up when the Jets entered their side of the field. The Jets were 0/1 in the redzone and had to settle for field goal attempts on four promising drives (and two of those field goals were missed).
6. Miami made the key plays down the stretch
Fourth quarter performance was the difference in this game. Despite all the yards accumulated by the Jets on the ground and the lack of spark from the Dolphin offense, it was a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.
The Jets won the time of possession battle and held the ball for much of three quarters, but the Dolphins dominated the fourth quarter. Miami's offense scored on both of it's fourth quarter drives while the Dolphins forced a three and out, a missed field goal and an interception on defense.
The improved play down the stretch of the game is why the Dolphins won the game. The Dolphins were soft in the first half, but tightened up when it mattered most to pull out a road victory against a division rival.
This win was ugly, but a win is a win. The Packers beat the Vikings by three points just weeks ago. The Chiefs lost to the Raiders a few weeks ago. The Jets are the bottom feeders of the AFC East, but that doesn't take away from the intensity of a division game. A win is a win.
The Dolphins know what they did Monday won't be good enough for the rest of the season. They will have to play better in their final four games of the season.
Nonetheless, the Dolphins passed their first December test and are leaving New York with a victory and the 6th seed in the AFC playoff race. Now the Dolphins must finish off strong, just as they did against the Jets, in their final four games of the season.
NOTES & QUOTES
- The Dolphins won just their second road game while trailing in the fourth quarter in their last 50 tries.
- Were people really ragging on Rex Ryan for running the ball too much? His team averaged 5.7 yards per carry. That's a weapon that you ride if the defense is struggling against it.
- Seeing the team's reaction to Reshad Jones' game-sealing interception was awesome. This is a close-knit team, and for that reason they are fun to watch.
- Ryan Tannehill's completion percentage was over 70% for the fifth straight game, something that even Dan Marino was unable to accomplish in his career as a Dolphin.
- Dolphins special teams was feisty. Don Jones made his presence felt on the coverage unit with an excellent tackle on the opening kickoff. Dion Jordan blocked a punt. Caleb Sturgis knocked his final kickoff of the game through the endzone to set the Jets up for a long drive.
- The touchback on the final kickoff was a big play, but Sturgis' inconsistencies on field goals must be addressed before it costs the Dolphins a game.
- This coaching staff is beginning to make halftime adjustments it's specialty.
- Dolphins have dropped to 21st in run defense after their worst showing of the season on Monday. But, as is the theme of this article/game, just win baby.
- Jelani Jenkins' blanket coverage on Jets TE Jeff Cumberland is the reason for the game-sealing interception from Reshad Jones. The Dolphins were playing Cover 2, which means the safeties were each covering a deep half of the field. The play call was perfect, a TE seam route, but Jenkins' coverage was so good that the ball bounced off of his shoulder into Jones' hands. If the play had been successful the Jets would've been close game-tying field goal position.
- Jenkins also made 16 tackles in the game. Jenkins made a few key stops on short third downs by shooting a gap and tackling the Jet ball carrier in the backfield.
- "It was tough sledding in the first half just trying to get our finger on what was our problem. We came in here at halftime and did that. We made some adjustments, Coach (Kevin) Coyle made some really good adjustments and we were able to react. We were able to go out there and create a new ballgame." - Jared Odrick.
- "It’s December, we knew the game was going to be tough. The Jets play us tough every year, division opponent. We knew what we had to face; however it took to get the victory, that’s what we wanted to do." - Reshad Jones.
- "Even though it was ugly, we got better today. It was a fourth-quarter win that we were looking for. It was something that we struggled with earlier in the season and I think we definitely got better today with the amount of big plays that we had in the fourth quarter." - Jared Odrick.
- "The defense really came up big. They answered the bell on the (Dolphins) turnover and there at the end came up with another turnover." - Ryan Tannehill.
- "That’s the thing, you’re not supposed to play a perfect game. Every game is not going your way, but (when) you find a way to win in this league, that’s a good thing. It feels real good right now to win it at the end on defense." - Randy Starks.
"Doesn't matter how you do it. We needed to have a test like this." - Joe Philbin in his postgame locker room speech.