Dolphins get ugly win over hapless Geno, Jets to stay in playoff race
You know what they say: Beauty is in the eye of the ... ah, forget it.
There is no use pretending that Monday night's game between the Dolphins and Jets was anywhere shy of brutal. The Dolphins will not care one iota when they next check the standings and see themselves sitting in wild-card position with four weeks to go.
Miami was MIA for about three quarters, yet still managed to rally for a 16-13 victory. With that, the Dolphins improved to 7-5 on the season, good enough to hold the six seed in a jumbled AFC playoff picture. The Jets dropped to 2-10.
"We made enough plays to win the game," Miami head coach Joe Philbin said. "I thought our guys kept their composure, kept their poise ... we made enough plays to win the game."
Three thoughts on the Week 13 finale:
1. About that Geno Smith evaluation ...
If Rex Ryan indeed was forced into playing Geno Smith over Michael Vick at QB, as reports indicated when that call was made, then perhaps the game plan vs. Miami was something of a parting shot by the soon-to-be-unemployed head coach.
The Jets ran 64 offensive plays: 49 rushes, 13 passes and two sacks. Before their final drive started, after Miami took that 16-13 lead, Smith was 4 of 8 passing for 42 yards. He finished 7 of 13 for 65 yards, with a game-ending interception.
"We know this [Miami] team is outstanding at rushing the passer," Ryan said. "And we thought what gave us the best chance to win was running the football."
In Ryan's defense, Miami showed little ability to stop the New York ground attack early. A suddenly revitalized Chris Johnson led the way on his first 100-yard night of the season. His impressive 47-yard run in the first quarter set up an end-around TD run by Greg Salas, of all people.
The Dolphins jammed more and more defenders up near the line as the game progressed, in hopes of forcing Smith to throw the football. Still, the Jets persisted with their run-or-die approach.
"I thought our game plan was good," Rex Ryan said. "We were going to run the ball. ... More than 200 yards better than the Dolphins, we would have taken that, no doubt."
It wasn't enough, nor did it give the Jets any additional insight into Smith's viability moving forward.
On the other hand, for perhaps everyone but Ryan, Smith and GM John Idzik, losing games probably benefits the Jets as much as anything right now. If the goal of the approaching offseason is to find a new franchise quarterback, sitting as close as possible to the No. 1 overall pick should be the goal, especially with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston on the horizon.
That is the silver lining from another wasted evening in New York.
2. Get that out of your system, Ryan Tannehill?
The other starting QB in Monday night's contest trotted out of the locker room for his ESPN postgame interview with a smile glued to his face, then waved to the numerous Miami fans in attendance as a "Let's Go Dolphins!" chant erupted.
No win counts any more or less in the standings based on its aesthetic value, so Ryan Tannehill may as well enjoy his team's comeback. As mentioned above, it was close to a must-have for the Dolphins if they plan to snap a five-year postseason drought.
That said, they need to be better in Weeks 14-17. Tannehill needs to be better.
The offensive line struggled to protect him at times and Mike Wallace dropped a sure touchdown pass, but Tannehill was off-target much of the night. While the pressure may have rattled him, Miami's QB allowed several throws to get away from him, resulting in incompletions. His lone interception came on a fluky bounce, off the hands of Lamar Miller and into the arms of Darrin Walls; even that throw, though, was almost buried in the turf.
Miami mustered all of three points in the first half and faced a 10-6 deficit headed to the fourth quarter.
"We've got to be more consistent," Tannehill said during his ESPN interview. "The Jets did a really good job tonight of buzzing under some deep stuff and making us have to check down. ... It was frustrating [but] you've got to give credit to them."
Sure, credit where it's due: Ryan always has been a defensive-minded coach and he definitely disrupted Tannehill's rhythm Monday. However, even with Tannehill in the midst of his best NFL season, the moments of frustration have popped up a bit too frequently.
The offense's showing in New York probably will not fly in upcoming games against Baltimore and New England.
3. Miami bucks the fourth-quarter trend
All six of the Dolphins' wins prior to Monday had come by counts of 13 or more, whereas their last three losses had been by four points or less. In all of those setbacks (Green Bay, Detroit, Denver), Miami faded in the final quarter.
Philbin's squad flipped the script Monday, just in the nick of time. Lamar Miller's fourth-quarter TD run tied the game at 13, then a long-awaited extended drive led to Dan Carpenter's go-ahead field goal. The defense, which had been unable to stop the Packers, Lions or Broncos when push came to shove, picked off Smith to seal it.
"I told the team, we had six double-digit wins and we hadn't pulled [a close] one out," Philbin said, "so this was a game that I think ... you're going to have to win some of those."
It goes without saying that there is a significant drop-off in competition level from those teams that broke Miami's heart to the Jets, so Philbin will have to wait and see how the Dolphins respond should a tight spot against a better foe arise again in December.
For now, all that matters is the final score Monday.