JT Rides Into Sunset Victorious

Posted Jan 1, 2012

There was no better way for Miami Dolphins legend Jason Taylor to go out than this.

Taylor’s inspired play spearheaded a 19-17 victory over the rival New York Jets on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium and knocked them out of the playoffs in the process. He was carried off the field by his teammates, led by Kendall Langford and Paul Soliai after the game ended, knowing how big of a role he had in Miami’s 6-3 finish down the stretch to finish 6-10.

For a moment it looked like he was going to have the ultimate storybook ending to his career when he recovered a would-be fumble in the end zone with 2:21 left, but after review the play was reversed and the Jets’ Matt Slauson was ruled down by contact.

Still, Taylor’s stat line may not have been typical of his stellar career (one tackle and one quarterback hit), but his teammates were not about to let him head off into retirement with a loss. Three turnovers by Miami’s defense proved to be the undoing of the Jets and all of them were interceptions – two by defensive end Randy Starks and the dagger by inside linebacker Marvin Mitchell.

After the Dolphins had erased a 10-3 deficit with a 58-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter as the clock expired in the first half and quarterback Matt Moore’s 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Charles Clay, they did not let off the glass. Starks’ second interception, forced by Taylor’s hit on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, set up Carpenter’s 40-yard field goal to make it 16-10.

Mitchell stepped in front of Sanchez’s intended receiver on New York’s next drive and returned his interception 55 yards. That led to Carpenter’s fourth field goal of the day from 44 yards and put the game virtually out of reach.

Sanchez desperately led his offense down the field to close the gap with a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Patrick Turner with 1:15 left in the game. The quick 80-yard drive took just one minute and 17 seconds and seven plays, giving the Jets a chance to try an onside kick. Brandon Marshall recovered it and went out of bounds at his own 47 to seal the deal as the Jets finished 8-8.

Taylor was sent out on the field on offense for the final kneel-downs by Moore and heard the “JT, JT” chants from the crowd as the clock wound down. He lined up as the I-back for the last one and was mobbed by the cameras.

Moore was 22-of-32 for 135 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and he got decent run support in the absence of leading rusher Reggie Bush from Steve Slaton. He rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries, with rookie Daniel Thomas adding 28 yards on 12 carries.

Turning Point: With his team clinging to a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Taylor made one of his signature moves on Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and hit Sanchez as he threw. That forced an errant pass that was intercepted by defensive end Randy Starks and returned to the Jets’ 25. Dan Carpenter’s 40-yard field goal stretched the lead to six points and forced the Jets to go for a touchdown down the stretch, leading to more rushed throws by Sanchez.

Statistical Milestones: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall became the first wide receiver in franchise history to reach 80 or more receptions twice as a Dolphin when he hauled in a 9-yard pass from quarterback Matt Moore on a 3rd-and-9 to keep the drive alive. He came back with a 19-yard catch three plays later on the last play of the third quarter. … Defensive end Randy Starks became the first player in Dolphins history whose primary position is defensive line to have two interceptions in a single game when he picked off Sanchez early in the fourth quarter. … When Moore completed his 1-yard pass to rookie tight end Charles Clay in the left corner of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown to make it 13-10, it culminated a 21-play, 94-yard scoring drive. Miami ate up 12:29 off of the clock, making it the longest drive in franchise history both in total number of plays and time of possession. The previous high in plays was 18, done three times before. … Dan Carpenter’s 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half was the third longest field goal in the regular season in franchise history and the second longest of Carpenter’s career. He hit a 60-yarder last year at home against the Cleveland Browns.

Eye In The Sky: John Jerry did his job filling in at left tackle for Jake Long again by protecting the blind side of Moore throughout the game. He was matched up against Calvin Pace most of the time but also had to deal with outside linebacker Aaron Maybin. … Even before he clinched the game with his late interception of Mark Sanchez and subsequent 55-yard return, inside linebacker Marvin Mitchell was making a huge impact. He took over after Karlos Dansby left the game early with a groin injury and did well in coverage, run support and providing pressure on Sanchez.

Coach Speak: “I thought that was big. For all the guys to finish the year on a winning note was outstanding. And as a special side note, to see what JT has meant to some of the guys and a ton of coaches, it speaks for itself. It’s his stage. You can’t have a career like that without working hard every day, being the same person you’re going to be every day, and I don’t have enough words to compliment the guy. Hopefully he does, but this was special. Just to be a part of it was special.” – interim Head Coach Todd Bowles on getting Jason Taylor a win in his last game

“I thought it was outstanding. Since we started 0-7 I felt the guys came back and fought every step of the way. The last three weeks have been great for me and it’s been great for the guys. It’s a tough bunch. It really is a tough bunch. I know it sounds clichéd, but those guys went out and we finally finished and came on strong.” – on ending the 2011 on a high note

“That was big. They had field position and we were just trying to punch the ball out of there to get some field position. This is a tough bunch to move the field on, you know. We got together one of those long drives, we put it together methodically and got down the field and we scored. We hadn’t been doing that all year but to do it against this type of team was outstanding.” – on the 94-yard touchdown drive

“Randy got two picks. He might be at left corner next year if he could drop about ten pounds and finish the play. If Marvin had any speed he’d probably be a right corner.” – on the interceptions made by Starks and Mitchell

“He’s such a humble guy. He plays hard every down, every day, all of his career. You don’t get great just doing things like that up and down. He was steady. He was solid. He’s a star on and off the field. He’s a great human being; he’s a great friend. You know he’s a great player, you just can’t say enough about the guy. You can never say enough about this guy.” – on reflecting on Jason Taylor

From The Locker Room: “It was tough. It was great to be carried off. I don’t deserve it. You know Don Shula deserves to be carried off this field, Dan Marino does, Zach Thomas deserved to be carried off this field. It was humbling and obviously I very much appreciated it. I told them to put me down three or four times, they wouldn’t do it. You can’t replace that, you know? It was great.” – Jason Taylor on being carried off the field by his teammates

“That was the perfect ending. If he wouldn’t have went back in the game that would have been fine with us. The play didn’t stand but it stands in our mind. We all cheered and celebrated and we’re just glad that we could send him out the right way.” – veteran strong safety Yeremiah Bell on the fumble recovery for a touchdown by JT that was reversed upon review

“We were supposed to throw him a jump ball. The game was too close and coach didn’t want to take a chance. We had a special play for him and that’s what we wanted to send him out with. We’ll take the victory package.” – wide receiver Brandon Marshall on what the plan was for JT when he came out on offense at the end

“It was great. You’ve got to honor the guy for all the things he did over here so the D-line, we made a decision to carry him out. I was looking at the big screen and I saw him happy and that was just something we wanted to do for him after all of the stuff he’s done for us so we just wanted to give him something back. It was our way to say thank you and what a way to do it, beating the Jets.” – nose tackle Paul Soliai on the decision to carry Taylor off the field

“I give JT a hard time all of the time but he knows it’s all love and he does the same thing back. I think we really both appreciate each other as players but there’s a whole lot more respect coming from me for him and all that he’s done for the game and how much I really look at him as someone I want to model myself after. I know I’m still going to be watching JT tapes learning how to be great.” – defensive end Jared Odrick on sending JT out with a win

Game Balls: Jason Taylor – Number 99 was pretty much guaranteed a game ball no matter what happened today, but like everything else he’s done in his career, Taylor earned it. From winning the coin toss with his brother-in-law, former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, to making Randy Starks’ second interception happen by hitting Sanchez as he threw, Taylor had a major impact. It was only fitting that his side of the ball decided the outcome.

Randy Starks – JT said during his final press conference that he wished he’d had the kind of game Starks had, which just so happens to be the kind of games Taylor had on a regular basis throughout his career. Starks had one sack, two interceptions, two pass breakups, two tackles (one solo) one quarterback hit and one tackle for loss. Both of his interceptions set up field goals by Dan Carpenter.

Kevin Burnett Once Karlos Dansby left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury it was up to Burnett to fill the void both in production and directing traffic. He responded by leading the team with a season-high 14 tackles (11 solo) and helping get Dansby’s replacement, Marvin Mitchell, lined up properly.

Marvin Mitchell – Speaking of Mitchell, he of course had the biggest defensive play of the game when he intercepted Sanchez at his own 9 and returned it 55 yards to the Jets’ 36 with under three minutes left in the game. That led to Carpenter’s third field goal that made it a two-score game and Mitchell also added five tackles (three solo) and a pass breakup for a solid effort.

Dan Carpenter – The fourth-year kicker out of Montana was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, all from beyond 40 yards, and all five of his kickoffs reached the end zone with three of them going for touchbacks. He set the tone early with his 44-yarder in the first quarter and then gave the Dolphins life and momentum going into the locker room at the half with his 58-yard field goal as time expired.
Game Pass: Miami Dolphins