1) Sudden Change Defense
What a luxury it is to have a defense that continues to come up with plays that determine the outcome of a game. The Miami Dolphins defense limited the Jets offense to just three points, 10 first downs and only 260 total yards on Sunday, pushing the team's record to 7-4. The defensive unit has been able to elevate their individual performances and play as one. This defense responded in the second half twice when the game could have turned in the Jets' favor. First, when Miami running back Matt Brieda fumbled the football in Dolphins' territory, this defense responded by pushing New York's offense into a punting situation. Minutes later, the Dolphins' offense again coughed up the football when Patrick Laird seemed to be on his way to a first down. The ball was punched out from behind, picked up by a Jets defender and heading deep into Dolphins' territory. Once again, the defense had to respond in a sudden-change situation, with a short field at their back. The Jets' offense was stymied on three consecutive downs, forcing a 4th-and-one decision. New York Head Coach Adam Gase decided to go for it and gave the ball to veteran running back Frank Gore. Gore slammed the fourth-down try up the middle, but was met behind the line of scrimmage by a more physical force. Linebacker Elandon Roberts sprung through the middle of the Jets offensive line untouched, and arguably made the most important play of the day for the Dolphins defense. That stop was the last time the Jets even threatened to score. It gave the Dolphins offense the ball back, and the ensuing drive ended up with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finding tight end Adam Shaheen for a seven-yard touchdown reception.
2) Sanders Steps Up Again
Has any kicker in the league been more clutch than Dolphins place kicker Jason Sanders? I really don't think so, and the way he's getting it done has been astounding. The attempts that Sanders consistently converts are usually from long distance, as were his two field goals on Sunday against the Jets. Both kicks came at critical spots in the game. The first one from 54 yards out tied the game at three, and was needed to settle the entire team down early in the game. His second successful kick came from 51 yards away, and it made the contest a two-score game. Facing a Jets offense that's last in the league in most meaningful categories, that field goal must have felt like a three-touchdown lead instead of just 13-3. Sanders has been sensational all season long. He's a perfect 8-of-8 from 50 plus yards this year, and dating back to last season, Sanders has made 10 consecutive kicks from that range. That's the longest active streak in the NFL! His 86.7 career field goal percentage is the best in Dolphins team history, and his accuracy will be needed in the month of December if the Dolphins want to play games beyond January 3.
3) Fitzpatrick Does Just Enough
It's a luxury to have veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the Miami Dolphins roster. He has a certain calming effect that allows the team to relax and just play the game. It really doesn't matter if he's the starter, or playing a backup role at quarterback, he's going to give you everything that he's got on every snap. Fitzpatrick is also able to get the most out of this Dolphins offense. Against the Jets on Sunday, he directed this group to 22 first downs, 50% on third down efficiency (8 of 16), and revived wide out DeVante Parker. Parker posted his 10th 100-yard receiving game of his career, finishing the game with eight receptions for 119 yards. His presence on the outside opens up the middle of the field for everyone else in the passing game. Fitzpatrick was able to feed Parker, and also get everyone else involved. Fitz found 11 different receivers on his way to throwing for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Those two touchdown passes came in the red zone, and both finding the tight end position. Mike Gesicki hauled in a corner route early in the second quarter, and that was followed up when Adam Shaheen caught a seven yarder in the fourth quarter. It was Shaheen's third touchdown reception with the Dolphins, tying his career high in a single season.