There are many chapters of Dolphins-Jets that can be presented as the golden era of the rivalry. A.J. Duhe intercepting three passes in the muddy 1982 AFC Championship game; Dan Marino to Mark Ingram on the fake spike; Chad Pennington taking the 2008 AFC East title in the building of the team that discarded him five months earlier. It's hard to pick just one.
The year after Tony Sparano directed Miami to the playoffs and a division crown in his rookie season as head coach, the Jets brought in a first-time head coach of their own. The Rex Ryan era in New York spiced up Dolphins-Jets, and somehow made it even easier to root against the guys in the wrong shade of green.
Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown recently joined Drive Time with Travis Wingfield to talk about the 2009 Monday Night Football win over "gang green," including the added vitriol Ryan brough to the rivalry.
"When you talk about Rex Ryan and the attitude of his football team, you could tell it was always going to be a hard-fought game," Brown said. "They were an aggressive and confident bunch, but I share that same sentiment. So I enjoyed those types of environments and I think we were up for the challenge."
Brown set the tone early by capping off an 80-yard drive to open the game with his one-yard plunge into the end zone out of the Wildcat formation. The Jets would answer back with a 70-yard march to even the score at seven all, but Brown's Wildcat counterpart – Ricky Williams – would respond when Miami got the football back.
On the second play of Miami's ensuing drive, Pennington dumped off a screen pass to Williams, and the man with 10,009 career rushing yards would gash the Jets for 59 yards through the air. The play set up a 35-yard Dan Carpenter field goal to swing the lead back to the good guys.
In 2008 – the inception of the Wildcat craze in Miami – Brown and Williams combined for 2,048 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. In 2009, the pair raised the bar. The R&R duo combined for 2,131 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns.
"In football and in life, it's all about relationships, and Ricky was one of the guys I was closest with," Brown said. "I had a lot of respect for the way he went about the game."
The backfield went deeper than Ricky and Ronnie. Dolphins fans know the name Lousaka Polite, Miami's money man on third-and-short. In 2008, Polite had eight rush attempts on third-and-2 or third-and-1, converting all eight for first downs.
Patrick Cobbs caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in the 2008 game at Houston. That play came out of the Wildcat package with trickery. Brown took the direct snap, handed to Williams on the jet sweep, and Williams lateralled the ball back to Pennington who found a wide open Cobbs for a walk-in touchdown.
Lex Hilliard also joined in on the fun in 2009 with three touchdowns.
"We as a running back room we took pride in the opportunity to get three, sometimes four running backs onto the field at the same time," Brown said. "We had Lousaka Polite, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, for us to get in the game at the same time, it meant a lot."
Miami went with a more traditional approach to capture a lead early in the fourth quarter. After a pair of Jay Feely field goals and touchdowns by Jets running back Thomas Jones and Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano, quarterback Chad Henne made it two touchdown tosses in as many drives.
Trailing by a field goal, the Dolphins were pushing the ball close to midfield. Henne found Fasano for 14 yards on a crucial third-and-3 conversion to set the Fins up at their own 47-yard line. Henne extended a fake to Brown and loaded up for a deep shot to speedster Ted Ginn.
Ginn hauled in the catch over the top of Darrelle Revis to give Miami a 24-20 lead.
"Revis was such a great player, but Ted Ginn was fast like no other," Brown said. "By the time you realized how fast he was, sometimes it was too late. For (Ginn) to get on top of a guy like Revis, it wasn't a surprise; but I think it was for Darrelle at that time."
For two teams that typically slugged it out in defensive struggles, that moment felt like the nail in the coffin of the Jets. But they were a resilient bunch. Mark Sanchez went back to his earlier touchdown maker in Braylon Edwards for a 49-yard defensive pass interference foul to set up another Thomas Jones touchdown run.
Miami got the football back with five minutes to play, trailing by three. But the Dolphins wouldn't settle for a kick.
Brown and Williams matriculated the ball down the field for Miami, accounting for 43 of the 70 yards on the game-winning drive. With one timeout remaining, Sparano's team faced a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Brown took the direct snap and plowed into the end zone for the seventh and final lead change in the back-and-forth affair.
"I had confidence in any guy that was going to get the ball in that situation, but I knew I was getting the ball on that final play," Brown said. "When we got down to the goal line, I knew I was going to get into the end zone."
Brown's belief in himself came from the faith his head coach had in him. Brown detailed a memorable part of his relationship with the late Tony Sparano and their shared love for boxing.
"On Saturday nights, we would watch boxing clips of guys that were willing to go the distance," Brown said. "They had that 'whatever it takes' mentality and I think that was (Sparano's) mentality, too. Sharing that with him, that really meant a lot."
"Coach Sparano was one of my favorite coaches, if not my favorite coach," Brown added. "He's a big time competitor and a person who really embraces relationships, and we really responded to that. He was the kind of guy who wanted to see you do well not just in sports but in life, and that makes you want to run through a wall for a guy."
The win was the second straight for Miami heading into the Week 6 bye. The Dolphins would complete the sweep three weeks later with a 30-25 win at the Meadowlands. Ted Ginn returned two kickoffs for touchdowns as the Dolphins were back in the normal aqua tops.
But those orange jerseys the Dolphins wore that Monday night? Those were Brown's favorite.
"Those were probably my favorite jerseys," Brown said. "I tried to match the jersey with the orange cleats. Those were actually soccer cleats that I wore so I had to spat them up for a little more ankle support."
Since that game, the Dolphins and Jets have renewed the rivalry 21 times. Those 21 games have provided a near deadlock as the Dolphins have the advantage with 11 wins to the Jets 10. The teams will renew the rivalry Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 4:05 EDT.