NOTEBOOK: Defense Stifles Jets On The Road; Other Notes

Posted Dec 1, 2013

Miami comes up with four sacks and three turnovers in crucial win.

This is a Miami Dolphins defense that is filled with pride and entered the 2013 season wanting to prove it deserved to be mentioned among the league’s elite units. Today it lived up to that billing in a dominant 23-3 road win at the New York Jets with four sacks and three turnovers.

The New York Jets had no answer for the constant pressure being brought by Miami’s front seven from the first series until the final one when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith was sacked once and picked off once in a first half that saw the Dolphins limit the Jets to just 5:48 of possession and no points.

Second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon was the catalyst of a very active defense, leading the team with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, giving him a team-high 10 for the season. Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe got that first-half interception off of Smith late in the first half to set up rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis’ second field goal and fellow linebacker Philip Wheeler recovered a fumble early in the second half. Veteran cornerback Brent Grimes’ fourth interception of the season late in the game in the end zone sealed the win for Miami, but the defense as a whole had a plan coming in and executed it to perfection.

“We knew we just had to get into the pocket, pressure (Smith) and force him to make errors,” Vernon said. “But initially we had to stop the run. That’s the main thing we had to do because they’re a great running team and that’s one thing we had to capitalize on. … I feel like we played a complete game today. We still gave up too many rushing yards (99) but I’m just glad we got the win.”

This is the first time Miami’s defense has held an opponent to just three points since last December 16th in a 24-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sun Life Stadium and the first time on the road since winning 31-3 at Kansas City on November 6th, 2011. In terms of yards allowed, the 177 given up to the Jets were the lowest total of the season.

Head Coach Joe Philbin knew how important it was for his defense to have a big game in front of a hostile crowd at MetLife Stadium and he got what he wanted from the very first series. Actually, he saw all he needed to see on Smith’s first play from scrimmage when Vernon and Wheeler converged on him for an 8-yard sack.

“I though our defense played well,” Philbin said. “We came out of the gate fast and we got good pressure early on him and I thought our coverage down the field looked pretty good as well. So I don’t think he had a ton of options or quick places to go with the football and it’s a credit to our coverage, too.”

Philbin felt good enough about his defense that he didn’t hesitate to have his offense go for it twice on fourth down because of how they were containing the Jets. That wasn’t lost on the defensive players.

“I think as a defense we love having that pressure on us,” said Vernon, who also had a big game last year in the same stadium with a touchdown off of a blocked punt and a blocked field goal. “The offense is going to do whatever they can to set us up and we know just on defense we’re going to finish them off.”

Statistical milestones

Rookie running back Mike Gillislee made his NFL debut this afternoon and gained five yards on his first carry in the first carry and nearly scored his first career touchdown in the second quarter on a 3-yard rush that came up just short of the end zone. … Tannehill’s 30 pass attempts in the first half were a new career high, surpassing the 23 attempts against Buffalo on October 13th of this year and it’s the most first-half attempts by a Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino’s 27 on Christmas Day, 1994 against the Detroit Lions. … Tannehill now has four 300-yard games on the season, the most by a Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino’s four in 1998. … Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe’s interception of Geno Smith late in the first half was his second of the season, a new career-high and the most by a Dolphins linebacker since Akin Ayodele picked off two passes in 2008. … This also marked the eighth consecutive game the Dolphins have intercepted at least one pass. … The Dolphins have forced a turnover in each of their 12 regular-season games. … Wide receiver Mike Wallace caught a touchdown pass in consecutive games for the first time as a Dolphin and the first time since last November 4th at the New York Giants and November 12th at the Kansas City Chiefs as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. … Wide receiver Brian Hartline tied his career-high for touchdown catches with his third in the second half of the game, this one from 31 yards out. … Defensive end Olivier Vernon recorded multiple sacks for the second straight game, picking up 2.5 today after notching two last week against Carolina. … Tight end Charles Clay’s seven receptions were a career-high and his 80 receiving yards are the second most of his career.


Miami stays on the road next Sunday at the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Heinz Field between two teams battling for that sixth and final AFC playoff spot.

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