It wasn't pretty, but the Jets had a chance to win on Sunday.
Joe Flacco was playing well, rookie wideout Elijah Moore was producing another breakout game and the defense—for the most part—had kept a lid on the Dolphins' offense.
Taking a tie ballgame into the fourth quarter, however, head coach Robert Saleh watched helplessly from the sideline as his defense squandered another opportunity with back-breaking penalties, allowing Miami to extend their final two drives and score.
Led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw for 273 yards with two touchdowns, the Dolphins secured a 24-17 victory on the road at MetLife Stadium.
The first half was evenly matched.
Miami started strong, marching down the field on the first possession of the game. An 11-play, 83-yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run from Jaylen Waddle set the tone early.
But New York bounced back a few minutes later. After safety Ashtyn Davis hauled in his first career interception—on an errant throw over the middle from Tagovailoa—rookie running back Michael Carter broke free for a 39-yard gain, his longest run of the season. Four plays later, on fourth down, Flacco found Jamison Crowder in the end zone for a game-tying score.
Both teams went back and forth, punting the football throughout the rest of the first half. At one point, the Jets were deep in Dolphins territory, but a free rusher on Flacco's blind side forced a fumble to turn the ball over.
Finally, in the last few minutes before the half, both kickers missed field goals. Matt Ammendola clanked one off the left upright from 55 yards out. Then, Jason Sanders doinked a 32-yarder off the top of the right upright as the first half came to a close.
The third quarter featured two explosive touchdowns for both sides. Tagovailoa capitalized on broken coverage in New York's young secondary, launching a deep ball to Mack Hollins down the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
Six minutes later, Flacco dismantled Miami's blitz package, hitting Moore on a slant route and letting the rookie handle the rest. The perfectly executed pitch and catch turned into a 62-yard touchdown, tying the game.
Moore wound up with eight catches and 141 receiving yards in the loss, yet another tremendous performance.
Flacco wasn't flashy on Sunday, but that play in the third quarter was emblematic of why he was named the starter this week (and why we could see him next week as well). The veteran saw what the defense was doing before the snap on third down and got rid of the football quickly, allowing a playmaker to turn a quick route into a big play.
The question from there was whether or not the Jets could jump in front in the fourth and find a way to win. Two killer penalties on third down in back-to-back drives allowed Miami to take a two-touchdown lead and cruise to the victory.
As cornerback Bryce Hall broke up a third-down pass in the red zone, John Franklin-Myers was called for roughing the passer, pushing Tagovailoa to the ground. A few plays later, Myles Gaskin hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass, giving Miami a seven-point advantage.
On the Dolphins' next drive, the Jets swarmed into the backfield for a huge sack on a third down at the edge of field goal range. Meanwhile, corner Jason Pinnock was called for holding, giving Miami a fresh set of downs. That led to a 24-yard field goal from Sanders, a dagger with less than two minutes to go.
A quick drive from Flacco resulting in an Ammendola field goal brought this back to a one-possession game. But it was too little, too late.
With the loss, Gang Green falls to 2-8 on the season. They've shown potential this year, hanging with good teams, but it's hard to win in the National Football League when you fail to take advantage of opportunities and give your opponent more chances.
New York will have a shot to end this three-game losing streak next week in Houston, taking on the Texans.