By Abe Gutierrez
Thanks to a stout defensive effort and a career-night from quarterback Matt Moore, the Miami Dolphins defeated the New York Jets by a final score of 34-13 at MetLife Stadium. The win improves Miami’s record to 9-5 on the season, and for the time being, the Fins reclaim the sixth and final spot in the NFL playoff picture with two games to play.
For those wondering how the Fins win relates to the current AFC standings, there is some optimism for a Dolphins team that’s sure to keep a close eye on the remaining games this week. The (8-5) Denver Broncos welcome on the (11-2) New England Patriots, while the (7-6) Baltimore Ravens host the (5-8) Philadelphia Eagles, and the (7-6) Tennessee Titans travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the red-hot (10-3) Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15.
The play-calling and the execution on the offensive side of the football was nearly flawless for the Fins Saturday night, as they were patient and took what the Jets defense gave them. With Ryan Tannehill in street clothes, Todd Bowles and the Jets focused their attention on stopping Miami’s rushing attack, and it backfired.
“It’s a good front, there was opportunities there,” Moore said regarding the Jets approach to stop the run and make Miami’s passing game being the focal point of the offense. “It turned into a pressure game there midway through, we had to have some answers and we did. We wanted to run the ball, again, it was tough, but you know it allowed us to make some plays in the passing game and the guys, once they got the ball in their hands, it was pretty impressive.”
In the early going, the Jets defense was successful at stopping Miami’s running game, but luckily, Adam Gase and his staff made the necessary adjustments. As a team, Miami finished with 12 first downs, out of which, 10 were converted on passes and two on rushes.
The Fins’ attack also gathered 303 yards of total offense, with 236 coming through the air and 67 on the ground. In his first start in nearly five years, Moore connected on 67 percent of his passes, going 12-for-18 from the field for 236 yards, 4 touchdowns and a pick for a cool quarterback rating of 126.2.
“Sure, yeah, there were some nerves, I mean, I would be lying if I said there was no nerves,” Moore added. “But, you know, maybe it showed it a little early, we started slow and kind of got into a little groove there in the middle part of the game.
“Once we got going, I think all that negative stuff, if you will, wore off and couple of guys made some big plays and we got on the roll, just credit to those guys for getting us going. The blocked punt, Jarvis’ touchdown, I mean really, all of it. It was awesome down at the goal line, getting stops and really getting something happen, kind of guys not giving up, so, that made it easier on me, just the guys around me for sure.”
Aside from Moore’s highlight-reel effort, other Miami standouts include wide receivers Jarvis Landry (3 receptions for 108 yards, TD, long of 66 yards) and Kenny Stills (1 reception for 52 yards, 1 TD), while tight end Dion Sims (4 receptions for 31 yards, 2 TDs) had his best game as a member of the Dolphins organization.
If there were a letter grade higher than A+, Miami’s defense would definitely deserve it after Saturday night’s performance. That’s because Miami resistance did exactly what it needed to do in order to keep the Dolphins’ playoff hopes alive, particularly given the circumstances.
With points expected to come at a premium, the Dolphins defense did exactly what this team needed to keep pace in the Wild Card chase. Vance Joseph’s defense come up huge when the opportunities presented themselves, and that help set the tone for this ballgame.
The best part about this unit’s effort tonight was the way they were able to adjust after getting manhandled in the early going. Judging by the first few possessions of the game, it appeared as though the Jets were going to impose their will and wear this defense down. Nevertheless, Miami’s usual suspects had other ideas.
Defensive end Cameron Wake was instrumental on the win, as he registered his first interception of his career, along with a sack and a tackle. After the game, the four-time Pro Bowler couldn’t avoid questions about the first pick of his stellar NFL career.
“We had a lot of fun out there,” Wake said after the game. “Obviously, I’m not back in coverage very often, so, that was a new one for me. The ball was there, so I had to go back to my linebacker days and I put my hands on it. Other than that, it was just a game where a lot of guys made a lot of plays, literally all over the field: special teams, offense, defense, I mean, it took every guy. We knew what kind of game it was going to be coming in. and I think the guys prepared and we got a win.”
Ndamukong Suh was also a force out there, finishing with five tackles as he led the charge for Miami’s pass-rush that finished with 3 sacks, three interceptions and three fumbles.
Special Teams: A-
After a shaky start with kicker Andrew Franks missing Miami’s first PAT of the game, the special teams unit clamped down and took care of business. Walt Aikens continued his outstanding play by blocking a punt, recovering it and taking it all the way to the house, in what could easily be the play of the game. Punter Matt Darr had yet another solid ballgame, finishing with six punts for an average of 49 yards per boot and highlighted by a 73-yard bomb.
With their backs against the wall, the Dolphins coaching staff, not only put together one of the best game-plans of the season, but also prepared their players to go out and execute it almost to perfection on the road. Much like he’s been doing all season, Gase continues to make believers out of doubters, even when the chips are stacked against him.
After getting punched in the mouth in the early going, the Dolphins responded like a playoff-caliber team on both sides of the football. And while there’s still plenty of work to be done, it’s clear that Gase has his players on the same page when it comes to taking one game at a time and being able to live with the results.
“I don’t know if we’re really worried about final records, or anything right now,” Gase said after the game. “We’re trying to win one game at a time, and I know I’ve said it before, it gets boring, but, that’s what it is. Our guys are focused on just making sure whatever opponent we have next that we come out that week 1-0.”
Next up: Miami must deal with ghosts of the past, as they head to Buffalo in Week 16
The Miami Dolphins’ season now comes down to two crucial games against tough divisional opponents. In Week 16, Miami will travel to New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York to take on Rex Ryan’s Bills on Christmas Eve. Opening kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. ET live on CBS.