It was a lot closer than most of us would’ve hoped, but the Miami Dolphins were able to squeak out a 31-24 victory over the New York Jets in Week 15. The Dolphins also extended their winning streak to 6 games, and are now 7-7 on the season.
Here are 3 reasons why Miami was able to take down New York:
Reason 1: Stellar Run-Game
It’s hard to believe that Duke Johnson was out of a job up until a few weeks ago, because the man can run the HECK out of the football. In his return to Hard Rock Stadium, he gashed the Jets for 107 yards on 22 carries, including a pair of touchdowns. Johnson’s patience behind the offensive line was particularly impressive, as he made plenty of positive runs by simply waiting for holes to open up in front of him. As a team, Miami put up season high numbers in both rushing yards (183) and rushing attempts (42).
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the offensive-line’s performance on Sunday, as they played a huge part in Miami’s success in the run-game. In perhaps their best performance of the season, they created plenty of gaps for Miami’s running-backs to exploit all game. According to Pro Football Focus, 3 of Miami’s offensive linemen were graded over an 80.0 on run-blocking snaps against the Jets.
Reason 2: They Stuck To Their Gameplan
It’s easy to forget now, but the Dolphins actually fell behind 10-0 on Sunday. Sure, 10 points is only 2 scores, but I’ve seen way too many Dolphins’ teams over the years that fell apart at the first sign of trouble. I mean, surely nobody forgot how our 2013 season ended under Joe Philbin, right? With Jaylen Waddle and Jevon Holland already missing the game due to COVID reasons, I don’t think anybody would have been surprised if the Dolphins ended up losing on Sunday.
But, even if most Dolphins fans were panicking at this point, the most important man in Hard Rock Stadium wasn’t—Brian Flores.
It’s clear that Miami came into the game with the intent to run the ball down the Jets’ throats. Facing a 10-point deficit, it would’ve been very easy for Flores to abandon that gameplan, and switch to a pass-heavy offense. However, Flores chose to stick with the run game, and stayed true to his gameplan. This decision eventually paid off, with Miami running all over the Jets for the remainder of the game. These runs led to points on the board, and once Miami finally took the lead early in the 4th quarter, they never looked back.
Reason 3: Defense Came Alive In The 2nd Half
As with most of the team, Miami’s defense started off the game pretty poorly. In the 1st half, they weren’t able to keep up with the Jets’ trick plays and fast-paced offense, and missed multiple easy tackles in the backfield. After 30 minutes of football, the Dolphins had already given up 17 points to an offense that ranks bottom-5 in the NFL in points scored.
However, the Dolphins started playing much more aggressively on defense in the 2nd-half, and it showed.
Miami blitzed on 60% of the Jets’ passing plays in the 2nd half, leading to 5 sacks and 10 pressures (compared to 1 sack and 4 pressures in the 1st half). This increase in pressure also benefited the Dolphins’ secondary, with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones combining to allow just one reception for 9 yards in the 2nd-half. Most impressively, the Dolphins’ defense didn’t allow a single point in the 2nd-half, with the Jets’ only score coming from an interception returned for a touchdown.
Duke Johnson grabbed most of the headlines following Sunday’s game (and deservedly so), but Miami’s defense played well against New York, and deserves their flowers as well.
Monday Night Football awaits Miami next week, as they travel to New Orleans to take on the 7-7 Saints.
Sean Payton and the Saints are fresh off a 9-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15, as they became only the 3rd team in NFL history to shut out Tom Brady (2003 Bills, 2006 Dolphins).
The Superdome is a place where the Dolphins have struggled in the past, with their last win at the Saints’s stadium coming all the way back in 2005. This is a game with huge playoff implications for both teams, and Miami simply can’t afford a loss at such a crucial time in the season. A win takes Miami to 8-7, and puts them in a great position to make the NFL playoffs.