Jets 23 (3-6)
Dolphins 27 (4-4)
The Dolphins are in that phase where they’re learning how to win under a new program. While there is a strong veteran presence, this mostly young nucleus is fairly new to the grind that is the NFL. The beauty of it is that the Dolphins are accumulating wins while learning some difficult lessons.
Penalties were an issue again, the second half offense was a disaster and the league’s best third down defense struggled to get off the field on crucial plays.
However, the Dolphins won their third straight in a game full of peaks and valleys. A dropped pass on third down that would’ve extended the drive, followed by a mishandling of the snap from Matt Darr put the Jets right back in scoring range following a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception in the end-zone.
An ultra-conservative game plan and some poor run defense put the Dolphins in some precarious territory before rookie Kenyan Drake saved the day.
It was the second return for a touchdown on the day for Miami although Jakeem Grant’s punt return score was brought back by a penalty. Originally called on Drake, I believe the infraction was a phantom call. It’s tough to tell from the broadcast and I’ll be able to see it on tape.
Jay Ajayi is deserving off leading off the individual performances portion of the review piece yet again. His 111 yards against the league’s number one ranked run defense, in terms of yards per game allowed, came on 24 carries and brings his average yards per carry over the last three games to 6.3.
Ajayi caught the ball well too, but his real value arises in the fourth quarter of these tight games when he can salt away a defense. 51 of those 111 yards came in that fourth quarter and, for the third consecutive game, he put away a game with a couple of first downs to close it out.
Ryan Tannehill checked the box for a positive performance in this game for me. He had his accuracy and foot work going in the first half and the back to back throws he made on the second touchdown drive were things of beauty. First, a lofted touch pass that brought the rain up the sideline to Damien Williams to extend the drive, and then a bullet into the corner of the end-zone for the Dominque Jones touchdown.
The play calling in the first half was more of a revelation as Adam Gase was getting yards via the scheme. The problem was, in the second half, he went back to the well on similar play designs and the Jets were privy to it. The near pick six where Tannehill stood and fired the ball to the flat was a horribly designed play.
You have to wonder how much of these heavy sets and simple throws are a product of a receiving corps that’s not getting it done – particularly, Devante Parker.
Parker’s inability to separate down the field continues to be a massive problem as his only receptions are manufactured within the scheme. Kenny Stills going out with an illness really showed how important he is to this offense as everything tightened up without him on the field.
Jarvis Landry is such a treat. I’ve been very critical of him and he did have another situation where he could’ve gotten chirpy but the Dolphins sideline did a good job of getting between him and the defender that shoved him out of bounds. On that play, Landry slipped a tackle and juked another one for a big gainer.
And the play in the red-zone where he bowled over Marcus Gilchrist is the kind of play that lifts a football team. He ran a slant later in the game that turned the defensive back, Darryl Roberts, completely around. He needs to get more of these quick hitters where he’s catching the ball in stride.
My man, Marqueis Gray, Mr. Secret Superstar himself, had another outstanding block on the Ajayi touchdown run. He stretched out wide and latched onto the linebacker creating a massive crease and Ajayi did the rest.
Dominque Jones ruined an otherwise good performance with that crucial drop just before the Matt Darr situation (and we’ll just call it that.)
The run blocking was a mixed bag in this game. I flagged Laremy Tunsil for getting bullied early in the game by both Sheldon Richardson and Steve McClendon, but he bounced back nicely and made some key blocks on a couple of trap plays. His feet are tremendous. His base to wall off defenders is a result of great technique.
Mike Pouncey has been sensational. He’s doing so much in the running game right now and Jermon Bushrod, while he gets beat sometimes, has moments of sheer brilliance.
I didn’t care for Ja’Wuan James performance as much and I thought Branden Albert played pretty well. I will say, it’s difficult to see EXACTLY what happened on the broadcast version, especially since they rarely showed replays in this game (huge pet peeve of mine,) but we’ll get to that later in the week on The Phinalysis Podcast.
The Jets were committed to stopping the run in this game and it showed early on. They were committed to blitzing gaps all along the front in running downs and it led to three consecutive negative runs from Ajayi. But props to the line for taking advantage of their aggressiveness later in the game and opening some huge holes.
Jay Ajayi is a heavyweight prized fighter and he’s going to knock you out in the 12th round if you let him. I was super impressed by the commitment to the running game in this one. No possible chance that Bill Lazor’s offense sticks with an ineffective running game that long and no way Ajayi grinds out 111 yards and puts the game away on offense in the final seconds for the third straight game.
Keep on running the football.
They’re going to have to start expanding the passing game because, right now, it’s all window dressing and plays through scheme. Simplified reads are great when you are nursing a lead, but some more downfield strikes are going to be necessary when the defense falls behind. And it’s going to happen eventually.
Ndamukong Suh is such a treat to watch. He was walking Jets interior linemen into the backfield all game and anchoring in the run game like a true veteran. He and Jordan Phillips played fantastic games and I can’t wait to see “Air Jordan’s” high hurdle on the highlights all week.
What an incredible scheme and play on that interception – something Vance Joseph is doing more and more of with dropping linemen into coverage.
Which reminds me, Mario Williams seems to have gotten the message. I don’t know if it was being called out or playing a more limited role, but his effort is up and he’s playing well. He looked motivated doing the same thing Phillips did dropping into coverage and that’s a positive check mark for the coaching staff as he complained about doing that very thing in Buffalo last year.
I don’t want to see Cameron Wake play anywhere but Miami the rest of his career. He is such an explosive and gifted pass rusher. Suh often takes on double teams and/or forces the running back to chip in the face of the quarterback leaving the edge exposed and Cam Wake is the quintessential left end for this scheme getting those one on one match-ups.
Wake made Brenno Giacomini his personal bitch all game long. Two strip sacks and pressure all day from a guy that would be headed to Canton if not for the late start to his career.
Andre Branch continues to be another homerun signing. If not for Isa Abdul-Quddus, and we’ll get to him, Branch would be this team’s best free agent signing. He was collapsing the right edge all game long.
Leon Orr made a nice play on a second and goal stop completely collapsing the designed hole.
There were some negatives in this game and the linebackers are at the forefront of that discussion. In a season full of shit football, Jelani Jenkins may have had his shittiest game. He’s a complete liability in coverage, man or zone, he’s late diagnosing run plays and he’s not a good tackler.
Donald Butler completely blew the long touchdown run by Matt Forte by filling the wrong gap. Abdul-Quddus was setting the edge leaving no safety help and Butler pulled his trigger too early rather than playing a more conservative technique.
Kiko Alonso was good in pass coverage, but struggled to diagnose run plays. For as well as the Dolphins played up front, the linebackers should’ve had a huge game – but they did not.
Spencer Paysigner got a few more snaps than I’d like to see from him, some good, but some very, very bad.
The secondary was a mixed bag. With Xavien Howard, Bene Benwikere and Chris Culliver all on the verge of being activated, I don’t see any reason to keep giving Byron Maxwell snaps. He had four penalties going against Brandon Marshall and looked like a child trying to cover an adult.
Bobby McCain is quietly having a good year. He struggles in the red zone without safety help as he gave up the late touchdown, but Quincy Enunwa operated out of the slot, mostly against McCain, and had just one catch.
Tony Lippett continues to play sound ball on the edge. The scheme dictated that the corners allow Fitzpatrick some easy underneath throws and he got some early on. The plan appeared to be, if we prevent the big play and force him to be sharp all game, he’ll eventually cave – and he did.
The Reshad Jones loss would’ve killed this team last year. The reason it’s not in 2016 is Isa Abdul-Quddus. The best way to describe him is an ultimate pro. He’s rarely out of position, he tackles well and he’s good for some play making now and then.
Fitzpatrick tried to find Marshall on a slant into the end-zone and Maxwell had outside technique and Quddus, as a product of film study, sunk right into the zone forcing an errant throw.
It’s hard to fault the special teams when they essentially won the game on the Kenyan Drake touchdown. And I think the block in the back called on Drake was incorrect if there was a foul at all. It looked like a Dolphins player was pushed into the Jets gunner and drew the flag.
Matt Darr, the ginger-stache himself, really shit the bed on the bobbled snap.
I still don’t quite understand Adam Gase’s end of the half clock management. They went into the locker room with two timeouts in pocket and could’ve burned them when the Dolphins were slowly moving up the field on three consecutive Jay Ajayi receptions.
Then, with 25 seconds on the clock and a 3rd and 24 from the Miami 42, he closed up shop. I see no reason you can’t throw an eight to 12 yard route, call a timeout and heave it into the end-zone. Strange.
However, the coaching staff has to be pleased with where the team sits. There are plenty of corrections to make in terms of technique, discipline as well as some housekeeping to do with the scheme on both sides. Three defensive penalties on third downs, after we had them stopped, to extend drives was simply a back breaker.
Vance Joseph’s defense is getting more creative and altering its rotations in a more effective way and Adam Gase has shown glimpses of continuously displaying ingenuity. He needs to do this for 60 minutes, though, not 30.
There was a one minute sequence in this game where the Jets had a touchdown taken off the board after replay and then threw a pick into the end-zone. The Dolphins next possession had a near turnover on a lateral almost deemed a backwards, then dropped a pass on third down that would’ve gone for a first down. Finally, Matt Darr mishandled the long snap. The Jets promptly scored and Kenyan Drake answered with a 96 yard kick return after the Jets were forced to re-kick following an off-sides penalty.
What a wild game.
Alas, the team is 4-4 and headed into the easiest second half schedule of any team in the NFL. This San Diego game is massively important and is likely the bridge to a six game winning streak and this team sitting at 7-4 come December.
That test in San Diego is going to be a tough one with Phillip Rivers completely on top of his game right now. The Chargers are awfully banged up, but we’ll get you covered with that game preview on The Phinalysis Podcast later in the week.
Three straight wins. A top five tailback in football. Wins over the Bills and Jets consecutively. Sending the Jets into complete dysfunction.
Football is fun again for Dolphins fans.
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