Why Did the Jets Struggle So Much Against the Dolphins This Season?

What made Miami so dominant against New York in 2020?
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Over much of the last six decades, since these two division rivals faced off for the first time in 1966, the Jets-Dolphins rivalry has been about as evenly matched as possible.

After falling in last weekend's showdown at MetLife Stadium, New York is now 55-54-1 against Miami. That's a .505 winning percentage, the highest for the Jets against a single opponent in franchise history (among teams they've faced more than 25 times).

With that in mind, how is it possible that the Dolphins were able to outscore their division rivals 44-3 across the season series in 2020?

It's one thing to get shutout once against a team in a single season. Even the best teams have bad games. But three points across 120 minutes?

"Because they have one of the top defenses," Jets head coach Adam Gase said on Sunday about his former team. "They’re tough. Those corners are tough. They do a good job of mixing up their fronts and their defenses. We just didn’t take advantage of any opportunities. When we had guys open, we didn‘t hit them. When we made some good throws, we didn’t finish the play. They’re a tough defense to go [against]. You have very, very small window of error."

Across two games against the Dolphins this season, Gase's team was stifled across the board on offense. Sure, New York is having a particularly tough season, but managing just one field goal on offense over two full contests says quite a bit about the group lined up on the other side.

The Jets may be the league's worst offense (ranked dead last averaging 276.8 yards per game), but they still scored seven-plus points in all nine of their other losses.

"They’re mixing in zones, they’re playing different types of man [coverage]," quarterback Sam Darnold said after throwing two interceptions on Sunday. "We’ve just got to do a better job. Again, I missed a couple throws, but, yeah, we’ve just got to do a better job overall."

It's not just the offense that's struggled against Miami. Even with phenom Tua Tagovailoa barely playing in the season series, missing this past Sunday due to injury, New York was unable to contain the Dolphins' aerial attack. Veteran quarterback, and former Jets signal-caller, Ryan Fitzpatrick had his way with the Jets' secondary in both games.

"I gotta give credit where credit's due. Fitz is a Harvard guy, he's a smart guy he knows how to make checks, knows how to pick up some blitzes and knows how to get guys in the right position," linebacker Jordan Jenkins explained. "Ultimately we just didn't execute to the best of our ability on defense and we let plays go, that we should have stopped." 

As both Darnold and Jenkins alluded to, at the end of the day, the onus falls on the Jets and not being able to get the job done against a formidable opponent. Miami is now 7-4 on the season and in a prime position to make the postseason out of the AFC East.

Facing a good team, however, is no excuse. Three points scored over two games simply won't cut it.

"They're a good defense so it's not like we're going out there and not trying. They do a lot of things to create matchups, put you in bad positions, stress you out and they play well in their scheme," he said. "You can't [make mistakes] and win games and we have shown that. You have to score in the red zone and we have not found a way to do that. 

"The word I keep saying—I'm getting sick of hearing myself saying it—is it's frustrating. That's what it is. It's incredibly frustrating."

The Jets won't have to deal with Miami again this season. Their only remaining divisional contest looms in Week 17 against the New England Patriots up in Foxborough. 

Nonetheless, the Dolphins are proving in 2020 that they're going to be around at the top of this division for years to come. If New York doesn't turn it around quickly after this season, who knows how evenly matched this rivalry will be a few seasons down the line.

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