Florham Park, N.J.– Predicting how a Jets-Dolphins game will turn out always proves to be a humungous waste of time. The Jets and Dolphins are notorious for having highly entertaining grudge matches broadcast over national television and somehow they still manage to surprise everyone with exactly how the game unfolds.
Last night was no different, with the majority of the media seemingly somewhat split on who would win the game, the one thing most people could agree on was that the game would be a defensive battle that would most likely be won on the ground. Which of course meant that it would be a high-scoring game with the winner being determined by the passing game.
The Jets defense might have done fine without Darrelle Revis for the second-half last week against the Patriots, but last night’s game proved just how much the defense needs Revis to be the dominate team they were last year. The Dolphins took advantage of the Jets depth issues at cornerback and shied away from their normal run-first mentality catching the Jets defense off-balance and moving the ball through the air with relative ease.
Mark Sanchez, however continued to shine letting balls zip all over the field giving this Jets offense an extra dimension that they didn’t have all of last year. The Jets have had success running the ball so far this year, but nothing like people expected. The Jets were supposed to be a run-first team with a questionable quarterback who would simply be asked to just manage the game. The Jets have run the ball reasonably well, but make no mistake they have won these last two games because of Sanchez’s arm.
Last year the Jets won because of their exceptional defense and superior rushing attack, many people continually said the Jets made it to the AFC Championship last season despite Sanchez, not because of Sanchez. Conventional wisdom had the Jets using the same blueprint for this season and while it’s too early to say that blueprint has been scrapped, the Jets have proven that they are willing to make the necessary additions to their game plan week in and week out.
Rex Ryan said, “I remember telling the offense before, that sometimes the offense is going to have to pick up the defense and that’s exactly what happened today. I told them in the locker room, ‘I have confidence on our offense,’ but I don’t know if I really believed that statement, but today both teams had over 400 yards of offense. Just an unbelievable performance by our offense and our special teams and our defense was resilient as can be and found a way to get it done at the end.”
From the Jets first drive of the game it was obvious to everyone watching Sanchez came to play. With Edwards sitting out the first-quarter due to his DUI last week, Sanchez refused to let his absence effect his play. Sanchez first pass attempt came on third-and-four when he dropped back and found Dustin Keller for a 16-yard gain over the middle. He followed that up with another pass to Brad Smith and some nice Jets running and completed the drive with a jump ball to Keller in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets a 7-0 lead.
Early on it looked like things might get ugly for the Dolphins as the two teams traded punts for the rest of the first-quarter, then Sanchez lead another exceptional drive to give the Jets a 14-0 lead. Sanchez capped this drive off, again finding Keller, this time a laser shot right over the middle for six-points, but the Dolphins refused to go without a fight scoring a touchdown on their next drive.
Keller did his damage early (six catches for 98-yards and two TD’s), but the Dolphins made the adjustments to take away much of the middle of the field by half-time. Once Sanchez realized they were taking away Keller, he decided to get Edwards involved in the fun. After the Dolphins took the first drive of the second-half to take a 17-14 lead, Sanchez got the ball back and responded immediately.
On the first drive of the half Sanchez dropped back and found Edwards on a short route that Edwards took and turned 67-yards up field for a touchdown leaving Jason Allen torched stuck in his tracks. Edwards also made two big plays in the Jets final drive of the game to seal their win. On third-and-10 on the 50-yard line Sanchez found Edwards just as he began to cut back for a 20-yard gain and a first-down. Then, on third-and-three on the Miami three-yard line, Edwards drew a crucial pass interference penalty on Allen giving the Jets a new set of downs at the one-yard line setting up a touchdown that would put the Jets up eight points.
As good as the offense looked at times, the Dolphins offense looked just as good. There were times early in the second-half where it looked like the Dolphins could do whatever they wanted offensively, but the defense stepped up and made the plays when they needed to, to secure the win.
Ryan went on to say, “It’s not that, I always knew that our offense could play to this level, I just never thought our defense would play to that level (laughing), to be honest with you, but the fact that we overcame and made the play at the end of the game that was so critical. Because we were on our heels, clearly, the whole second-half and really the second-quarter we kind of played on our heels a little bit. Not the way we normally play and you got to give credit to Miami, but the fact that we made the plays to win the game I thought that was tremendous.”
Ryan is right Miami, especially Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall, deserve a lot of credit for taking advantage of the Jets playing on their heels a bit, but to allow 363-yards passing to the Dolphins is not something this defense is known for.
Yes, clearly the Dolphins had the Jets defense off-balance, but the question is why did this run-first offense keep the Jets defense so off-balanced?
The obvious answer is to point to Revis’ absence, it would also be a correct answer. If Revis was playing, and healthy, he would of been matched-up against Marshall, Cromartie would of been able to switch on and off Bess and Hartline and Wilson could of slid in at the nickel and this would of most likely addressed every single issue that plagued the Jets secondary last night.
Wilson did not have a good night, he got picked on and abused for the first-half until the Dolphins went all-in on play calls to Marshall. He had a couple of bad breaks go his way, first the Dolphins ran the same deep pass play to Bess twice in the same drive, the second play he got smoked on, but the first one wasn’t a catch as Bess never got two feet inbounds but the Jets didn’t have enough time to convince Ryan to challenge. He also got flagged for a pass interference call that was close to being out-of-bounds and un-catchable, but all he had to do was turn his head around towards the ball and he wouldn’t have drawn the flag. With this coaching staff and the other players in this secondary you can bet that’s going to be a lesson he is going to need to learn.
The Dolphins did a great job of switching it up and making the Jets guess wrong on first-downs, as the Jets were often caught off-guard playing for a run play as Henne would drop back and continually pass the ball. This combined with Revis’ absence and the Jets not being able to run their man-to-man coverage and send a variety of exotic blitzes is what ultimately lead to the Dolphins arial success.
Cromartie was the one who got picked on in the second-half, as he was the one to draw the assignment of covering Marshall with Revis out. Cromartie got beat on a number of plays, but he won his share of battles too and one would think when Revis comes back he won’t be facing another receiver that good for awhile.
Even though the Jets won it was painfully clear the Jets defense wasn’t at full strength, but there a few good things the Jets defense can hang their hat on to know they will only get better. They might have given up more big plays than they would have wanted, but they stepped up when they needed to at the end and ended the game. Also in another week or, more likely, two they will have a healthy Revis and Calvin Pace back to help solidify this potentially extremely dangerous defense.
Most importantly what the defense learned is they have a quarterback who can bail them out if they don’t play to the best of their potential. The difference in Sanchez this year and last is unmeasurable, Schottenheimer is giving Sanchez more rope and he is responding by continually making plays and not turning the ball over. Last year Sanchez lead the league in turnovers, this year so far he has zero. The more his play continues like this, the more his confidence grows.
He is still in his second year so more bumps in the road are to be expected, but he has shown that when needed he can do exactly what he is capable of and that’s, not just simply managing the game not to lose, but making plays to win games.
Sanchez said, “That’s the most important thing. I knew that if we eliminate some of those interceptions from last year, if there not even completions, if we just eliminate them, make them incompletions (then) we win more games during the regular season. Maybe get a playoff game at home and that’s what we are fighting for.”
Sanchez has zero turnovers, not zero mistakes as he easily could of had a couple of turnovers last night, but the key is he is limiting his mistakes. As a quarterback your always going to make a mistake here or there, but if he can continue to limit his mistakes and play with this type of confidence, imagine how dangerous this passing game could be when Santonio Holmes comes back in a few weeks.
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