Starting with the opening drive of the game, the Miami Dolphins made it clear today they were intent on controlling the tempo against the New York Jets, and they never let up in a convincing 23-3 win.
Now Miami is back to .500 at 6-6 and tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with a trip to Pittsburgh next Sunday against the 5-7 Steelers next up on the schedule. San Diego (5-6) hosts Cincinnati this afternoon but the Dolphins own the tiebreaker edge on the Chargers having beaten them head-to-head.
“The offensive line really came with the mindset that they were going to rush the ball, the backs did a great job of hitting holes when they were there and I think that kind of set the tone for the game,” said Tannehill, who now has four 300-yard passing games on the season and 16 touchdown passes. “You can’t say enough about the run game today against obviously the No. 1 ranked run defense coming in. We knew it was going to be tough to run but the offensive line did a great job opening up holes, which opened up some play-action stuff and I was able to get the ball downfield a little bit.”
Defensively, the Dolphins held New York to 177 total yards and suffocated the Jets’ passing attack, chasing starter Geno Smith from the game after the first half. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s unit didn’t let up on Smith’s replacement, Matt Simms, sacking him three times in the second half and picking off his late desperation pass in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
“It was a complete game and everybody was able to execute,” defensive tackle
Hartline led all receivers with nine catches for 127 yards and a 31-yard touchdown that broke open a 6-0 game early in the third quarter. Speedy wideout Mike Wallace added seven receptions for 82 yards, including a 28-yard scoring pass where he broke a tackle near the right sideline and waltzed into the end zone to make it a 20-3 ballgame. Clay caught seven passes for 80 yards, all in the first half.
“I stayed aggressive and the ball went to a lot of good places throughout the game,” said Hartline, whose 127 receiving yards are the second most in a single game of his career. “I think a lot of it goes to Coach (Mike) Sherman, too, staying aggressive in the play calls all throughout the entire game and it provided us the opportunity to make plays.”
Miami’s ground game was pretty efficient, gaining 126 yards on 35 carries.
This was the Dolphins’ third road win of the season but first since their Week 2 upset of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium and it comes at a very important time with four games left on the schedule. They are embracing Philbin’s message at this time of the year.
“We told the guys last night in the meeting this was December 1st and you have to play your best football of the year in December,” Philbin said. “We talked early in the week about making this a one-game season and focusing on the game at hand and all the other stuff would take care of itself. I thought our concentration level was good, our focus was good and that’s kind of what we told them.”
Two of the final four games will be played at Sun Life Stadium, against the New England Patriots on December 15th and a rematch with the Jets in the finale on December 29th, with a trip to Buffalo in between. Miami’s goal now is to maintain this level of concentration and focus.