Miami – The Jets put up a good fight, but they left Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday in a 31-24 loss to the Dolphins.
Yes, moral victories are minor, credit the Jets. They played with a level of competition that they have missed for most of this season.
Zack Wilson played OK and finished with 170 yards, a lost fumble, a speedy touchdown and was dismissed six times. But there was a chance to go into the final drive of the game.
The Jets (3-11) were a 10-point underdog coming into their Week 15 matchup and almost had the Dolphins on the ropes.
They could pack it. They were coming 3-10, but the team fought to the end.
However, the Jets’ atrocious run defense sank them, leading to a 31st-placed running attack for 183 yards, which ended in an upset.
Dolphin Duke Johnson, who was active only once this year, ran 102 yards and scored twice. Miles Gaskins added 54 runs.
Robert Saleh’s defense continues to struggle against runs as he has allowed 168 yards per game in his last seven outings.
“He is given credit for working hard but it’s not good enough,” Saleh said. “It’s not that we don’t have the answers, but we have to get the job done from a schematic sample and do a better job.”
If run defense played better, it’s a different game altogether. The pass defense suppressed Tua Tagovailoa, who had compiled a passer rating of over 100 in four straight games. They put him in 193 passing yards with two interceptions and a passer rating of 75.
But the Jets’ defense couldn’t stop the Dolphins, who averaged 79 rushing yards on the field on Sunday.
CJ Mosley said, “To start with, I felt like we were really on our PS and Q as to their ongoing game, with their plan and what we wanted to do with the game.” “As the game continued, they started moving the ball and outperforming us.”
A prime example came in the fourth quarter.
Gang Green trailed 17-24, with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa dropped back and threw a hitch path to Hunter Long. Brandin Echols steps in front of the throw, intercepts it, and sprints into the end zone.
Tie Game, 24-24.
There was hope, excitement and belief that the Jets could upset the Dolphins (now on a six-game winning streak) and spoil their playoff hopes.
The Jets run defense then failed to advance the momentum built up by Echoes.
The Dolphins went on a nine-play, 75-yard drive and ran for 64 yards before Tagovailoa hit Devante Parker on an oblique route for an 11-yard touchdown.
The Jets trailed 31–24, and the offense went three-and-out on the following possession. But the Jets defense found a way to get the ball back to the Jets with 1:49 remaining in the fourth.
And on fourth and -10, Wilson hit Keelan Cole on an out route, but Cole was a yard short.
But the way it ended for the Jets was an entirely different story from how it began.
After the first quarter, the Jets scored 10 points, scored seven first downs, and committed a total of 100 yards. Meanwhile, the defense blocked the Dolphins for 36 yards, zero points, and Tagovailoa was stopped by Ashtin Davis.
Wilson was 6-of-9 for 66 yards in the opening frame.
And the Jets’ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s play calling successfully countered the Dolphins’ heavy blitz attack, with play action swirling pockets and calling for quick passes.
The defense rolled and the offense cooked up its best first quarter of the season.
The Dolphins responded as they marched down the field and capped an eight-play, 68-yard touchdown drive.
The Jets’ offense countered their first possession in the second quarter that featured an exceptional off-script play by Wilson to hit Ryan Griffin for a 23-yard advantage. Wilson capped the drive by the quarterback stealthily.
At the horn, the Jets led 17-10 for their first half-time lead of the season.
But, once again, the Jets offense could not maintain any level of proficiency for the entire game. On Sunday, he covered only 128 yards and scored seven runs after the opening quarter. Just like in the Eagles game, the offense got off to a good start and failed to advance on it.
In the first half, Wilson went 9-for-14 for 118 yards. But in the second half, he was dismissed after scoring only 52 runs.
“I thought he did some good things in the second half that hit us hard,” Wilson said. “We just have to keep going and try to execute.”
Wilson pointed to a dolphin change in defensive play calling. The Jets saw more man coverage, which forced the No. 2 overall pick to catch the ball longer as it waited for its receiving core to open.
The combination of the receiving corps was not opening quickly and Wilson caught the ball and converted it into five second half sacks.
And the defense allowed the Dolphins to score 21 points in the second half, largely due to a soft attack against the run.
With zero points scored by an offense and 21 points awarded in the second half, the team must spend 99 out of 100 on Sunday.
But overall, the performance effort against the dolphins is something the Jets can hang their hats on. Better to be blown away than lost in the wire.