With early-season AFC East bragging rights at stake, the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins each tried to hand each other the game throughout the afternoon. By the time the overtime battle had finished, it was just another one of the crazy Week 3 games, as the Jets escaped Miami with a 23-20 win on kicker Nick Folk’s game-winning 33-yard field goal. They now sit atop the AFC East along with the Buffalo Bills at 2-1. Perhaps even more important than the outcome of the game was the Jets loss of cornerback Darrelle Revis to a torn ACL. He’s expected to miss the rest of the season and that is a huge blow to the New York defense.
For the Dolphins, it will go down as a difficult loss, particularly in a game that seemed to be in their control. Some careless mistakes combined with a missed field goal from kicker Dan Carpenter in overtime has them sitting at 1-2. Despite very low expectations coming into the season, the Dolphins have shown they will be a difficult team to play on a weekly basis, even with a rookie quarterback who is experiencing the expected first-year growing pains.
Let’s take a look at the players who influenced this AFC East matchup.
Three Performances of Note – New York Jets
Passing Game Out of Sync
Almost a perfect microcosm of his entire career, quarterback Mark Sanchez (-3.1) had an up-and-down day, but he was able to make just enough throws to lead the Jets to victory. When looking at the passing game as a whole, there was much more bad than good. Early on especially, the Jets could not get on the same page with each other and the detailed intricacies of an NFL passing game were lacking. It started early, as on Sanchez’ first pass, wide receiver Stephen Hill (-3.2) ran an out route when Sanchez through an apparent hitch. Later on the drive, former Dolphin Edmund Gates started to run a post, while Sanchez threw the in-cut over the middle. Regardless of the pattern, cornerback Richard Marshall was in perfect position for the interception as the ball never should have been thrown.
For much of the game, the details were lacking for the Jets. Whether it’s inaccuracy from Sanchez or a lack of continuity with an inexperienced WR corps, the Jets were inconsistent throughout the game. Still, in typical fashion, Sanchez drew a pass interference penalty on a beautiful deep ball to Santonio Holmes that set the Jets up for their game-winning field goal in overtime.
Despite the end results, some of the numbers were alarming. Though Sanchez has had his struggles at making throws while pressured throughout his career, he really had issues while throwing from a clean pocket on Sunday. He was 9-of-25 for 116 yards and two interceptions when not under pressure, and he was plagued by inaccuracy and poor decision making all game.
Right Tackle Issues
As we discussed in our Three to Focus On game preview, right tackle Austin Howard has been going through a tough gauntlet of AFC pass rushers. Unfortunately for the Jets, the results have continued to worsen and Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake got the better of Howard in this battle.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of as Wake is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, but the Jets may be faced with the same concerns at the right tackle position that they had coming into the season. Howard’s -6.8 grade was the worst of his young career, including -5.0 as a pass blocker. He surrendered three hits and five hurries, all of which came at the hands of Wake. There was a common theme for the eight QB disruptions as they all came with Wake getting around the edge on Howard. This is the type of game that got former Jets RT Wayne Hunter sent out of town, so Howard’s bounce-back ability will be crucial moving forward.
Wilkerson Continues to Emerge
Second-year DE Muhammad Wilkerson had improved steadily since being taken in the first round of the 2011 draft, and he has developed into one of the best run-stopping 3-4 DEs in the league. He dominated the line of scrimmage on Sunday to the tune of nine tackles, eight of which were stops. For the game, he graded at +5.8 overall and +6.9 as a run stopper. When he wasn’t making plays himself, Wilkerson did a great job of standing up offensive linemen and redirecting ball carriers toward his teammates.
Though he is still limited as a pass rusher, Wilkerson rarely comes off the field, as he’s played 82% of the Jets defensive snaps this season. On Sunday, he played 71-of-85 snaps, but he was only able to muster one hurry in his 32 attempts. If Wilkerson can develop his game as an interior rusher, he could be a scary player. Sunday’s game was one of the more dominating run-stopping performances you will see from a defensive lineman.
Three Performances of Note – Miami Dolphins
No Pass Rushing Help for Wake?
I already discussed Wake’s dominance as a pass rusher (three hits and eight pressures), but it should be noted that he was nearly unblockable in the running game as well. Five of Wake’s seven tackles were stops and he was easily the best player on the field on Sunday. He didn’t have much help from his teammates however, as his 11 QB Disruptions represented nearly 40% of the Dolphins’ team total.
It’s been a season-long issue in Miami as they have no real pass rushing threat opposite Wake. DT Randy Starks has had a good start to the season, but he’s an interior rusher and he only picked up three QB Disruptions on 41 rushes in this game. With Wake the only viable threat, the Dolphins looked to provide pressure with the blitz and they sent an extra man on 43% of Sanchez’ dropbacks. Though Miami picked up two interceptions with the blitz package, it was more due to poor decision making from Sanchez as the pass rush was nonexistent on both plays. The Jets did a nice job of picking up the blitz and exploiting holes in the secondary as Sanchez went 11-of-20 for 203 yards and his only touchdown when facing the extra rusher.
Run Stopping Linebackers
Much like the Jets boast a defensive line that is difficult to move against the run, the Dolphins have three linebackers who are run stopping at a high level. ILB Karlos Dansby led the way Sunday as his five stops were a big part of his +4.0 Run Defense. He was all over the field in coverage as well, including a well-timed pass deflection on a Sanchez seam pass.
At outside linebacker, Koa Misi (+2.9 Run Defense) and Kevin Burnett (+0.9 Run Defense) were solid as well, particularly Misi who is making the transition from 3-4 OLB. As would be expected, Misi has shown well in the running game all season, and he added five stops in this game. Of course, Misi has limited experience in coverage, and teams will be looking to exploit him in space in his new SAM linebacker spot. Whether missing a tackle in the flat or falling down on a crossing route, “work-in-progress” is still a valid description of Misi’s move to his new position.
A 4th Quarter to Forget
When I said the Dolphins and Jets each tried to give this game away, I certainly have wide receiver Anthony Armstrong in mind. Though he only played 26 snaps, he had an adventure of fourth quarter. On the day, he was targeted six times, bringing in two passes for nine yards. The one nice thing I can say about Armstrong is that he was creating separation, but he dropped two balls, both of which came in the final quarter of regulation.
It started at the 10:08 mark as quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit Armstrong with a beautiful pass in between coverage on the post route. The would-be third down conversion hit the ground to stall Miami’s drive. Later in the quarter at the 1:36 mark, the Dolphins were driving for a game-tying field goal when Tannehill’s back shoulder fade hit Armstrong right in the hands. He was unable to haul it in and as he bobbled the ball along the sideline. Though the Dolphins went on to tie the game, it was a forgettable fourth quarter for Armstrong, who may not get many more chances in Miami.
- Sanchez graded at -4.9 on throws to the right and +1.6 on throws to his left.
- Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill did not have a catch in his seven targets. He also had two drops on the day.
- Where’s Tebow? He played 12 total snaps on offense, with three at QB, three at FB, one at HB, three at outside WR and two in the slot.
PFF Game Ball
Though it was in a losing effort, DE Cameron Wake was the best player on the field, both as a pass rusher and as a run stopper. His 11 QB Disruptions (three hits, eight hurries) and five stops are as good as it gets from a defensive lineman in a game.