The Jets did all they could defensively to win on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Their offense, despite having Sam Darnold and all three starting wide receivers healthy for the first time this season, managed three points.
New York forced multiple fumbles, put pressure in the backfield, had multiple sacks and tackles for loss, deflected passes at the line of scrimmage and had several key stops on third down.
Nonetheless, when the offense had multiple opportunities to put points on the board down the stretch and cut into an early deficit, it faltered each and every time.
New York loses yet again, falling 20-3 to their division rivals. After a shutout loss to the Dolphins earlier this season in Week 6, the Jets end the year without scoring a single touchdown against Miami.
Most importantly, the Jets are now 0-11 in 2020.
In his return from injury, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold showed signs that his shoulder is back up to speed with some pretty deep balls and bullets over the middle. He threw for 197 yards, bounced up after taking a few hits and did a solid job of consistently targeting New York's three starting wideouts.
Two horrific interceptions in the second half, however, will cast a dark shadow on Darnold's overall performance.
Filling in for Miami's rookie Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick had his way with New York's youthful secondary. He threw for 257 yards and tossed two touchdown passes in the win.
Here are three takeaways from New York's latest miserable performance, taking another stride toward finishing this season with a winless record.
Disappointment from Darnold and the Jets offense
All signs pointed to a big day on offense for the New York Jets.
Sam Darnold is back after missing four of the last six games. Rookie Denzel Mims, along with receivers Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman, are all healthy. They're facing a familiar foe.
After two consecutive games with 27-plus points with Joe Flacco in at QB, you had to figure the offense would at least match that kind of production, right?
On the first drive of the game, New York marched down the field, setting up a field goal from Sergio Castillo to take a three-point lead. Darnold was perfect on the drive, throwing for 59 yards.
After that, all the Jets could manage was a missed field goal at the end of the first half. Besides the 13-play drive that resulted in a missed chip shot from Castillo, New York didn't have a single drive of more than five plays.
Indicative of the entire performance on offense, take a look at this stretch in the third quarter. On back-to-back drives, the Jets defense forced fumbles in Dolphins' territory. Down only 10 points at the time, New York was in business to wipe away a set of lifeless drives and start to claw back.
Instead, the Jets went three-and-out on the first possession and turned the ball over on downs on the fourth play of the second.
Lastly, and certainly not least, Darnold's pair of interceptions were the kind that make you slowly lower your face into your hands and ask, 'what was he thinking?'
After getting the ball back early in the second half, Darnold found Perriman on a 27-yard bomb down the sideline. On his next passing play, rolling to his right, Darnold threw across his body in the direction of Jamison Crowder.
Let's get this straight. Darnold was on the run and threw into double coverage on a third down while the Jets were in field goal range. Miami's Nik Needham picked it off with ease.
Then, on their final drive of the game, Darnold tried to sneak a pass on an out route by Xavien Howard. Yes, the Xavien Howard that leads the NFL in interceptions (now with seven). He jumped the route—after Darnold double-clutched in the pocket—and snagged the pass just as Perriman was turning to look back at his quarterback.
Darnold may have thrown the ball well in his return from injury, but seemed to be pressing and trying to do too much. Some of the deep targets to Mims and company were desperate attempts for his receivers to make something happen.
In other words, Darnold has the talent to compete in the NFL, but needs to continue improving in his decision making and execution. If he can take the handful of perfectly placed balls and transform them into a full four-quarter performance, he'll be just fine in this league.
With where the Jets are going, however, that very well may need to be in another uniform.
Defense dominated for a stretch, but struggles in the secondary prevailed
The Jets did their part on defense.
Even if their inexperienced unit of defensive backs got torn apart, similar to what happened against Justin Herbert and the Chargers last week, the performance from those up front was promising across the board.
The Jets forced two fumbles—Quinnen Williams and Jordan Jenkins were the ones that punched the ball loose—and combined to sack Fitzpatrick four times. One and a half of those sacks belong to Williams, who had seven total tackles and defended multiple passes at the line of scrimmage.
When it came down to it, however, the rookies in the secondary had trouble containing Miami's offensive weapons.
Safety Ashtyn Davis found himself in a mismatch when Fitzpatrick lobbed up his first touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki in the first half. Cornerback Bryce Hall had trouble defending DeVante Parker, who led the way for the Dolphins with eight catches and 119 yards.
Another game at this level is invaluable experience for the rookies, but until they've gotten a few more starts under their belt, it'll be tough for them to hold down opposing aerial attacks.
Silver lining: Gore has more in the tank while youngsters continue to shine
One bright spot, at least from the first half, was running back Frank Gore.
In the first two quarters, Gore had 72 yards from scrimmage (13 carries for 60 yards on the ground to go along with three receptions). That's more yards than Gore had compiled in any game this season.
With La'Mical Perine on injured reserve, Gore as expected was out there for much of the entire game. It's not everyday a team has a 37-year-old that can take 18 carries in a game and put up respectable numbers—especially when New York's offensive line was missing two starters on Sunday.
That said, and as this team strides closer to 0-16, it would be nice to give some other young assets more touches to really see what they can do. Second-string back Ty Johnson wound up with just two carries. Even Perine hadn't been getting the ball as frequently as Gore throughout this season. Plus, it never hurts to feed Mims and the receivers more often.
Again, even with a winless record entering the month of December, the Jets should be ecstatic about certain pieces that they can build around. Mims had another tremendous day, showcasing his speed and elite catch radius (67 yards on four catches). Williams on defense was spectacular as well, announcing his presence on the defensive line practically every drive. And you can't forget left tackle Mekhi Becton—it seemed like every rushing play was to the left side on Sunday.
New York now has five more weeks to find a way to win. Otherwise, they'll make history in the worst way possible.