The Miami Dolphins (7-4) rebounded from a tough loss last week with a resounding defensive effort against the New York Jets (0-11). The Dolphins defense stymied any offensive output from Sam Darnold and Co., romping their way to a 20-3 victory. The win, coupled with key losses by other teams, propelled the Dolphins back into the AFC playoff picture.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.
Dolphins Defense Dominant in Win Over Jets
The Dolphins defense returned to its dominant ways Sunday. Miami limited the Jets to just three points, 10 first downs and 260 total yards. In 25 possessions this season, the Dolphins held New York to just 0.12 points-per-possession.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the three total points allowed is the fewest by an NFL team in two meetings against the same opponent since 2009. The three points allowed is the second-fewest by the Dolphins against an AFC East opponent in one season. Miami shutout the Baltimore Colts in both games played against them in 1972.
Miami extended its takeaway-streak to 17 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak. The Dolphins’ 19 takeaways this season are third-most in the league.
Miami improved its scoring defense to just 18.6 points-per-game this season, which is second-lowest in the NFL. And the Dolphins have the best third-down defense in the NFL after limiting the Jets to just 3-of-13 on third downs. Miami’s 32.8 third-down percentage allowed leads the league, and the Jets’ 10 first downs were tied for the second-fewest in a single game this season.
No QB Controversy
Much of the discourse leading up to this game surrounded which quarterback gave Miami the best opportunity to win. Tua Tagovailoa was coming off of his worst professional outing, but he’s yet to turn the ball over through four games played. Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, coughs up the ball at an average of once per game.
A thumb injury shelved Tagovailoa against the Jets, robbing the rookie of a bounce-back performance. Instead, Fitzpatrick helmed the offense. And although some argue for the veteran to replace the youngster, there was no Fitzmagic Sunday.
Sure, Fitzpatrick piled up yards (257), but he provided just two touchdowns against the league’s worst defense. He flashed his chemistry with DeVante Parker, who finished with eight catches and 119 yards, but little else. In the absence of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins offense did little to indicate the rookie was the problem.
“If he’s healthy, he’s the guy,” Flores said.
Flores couched the statement by saying: “We’ll see how he does in practice over the course of the week. He’s a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We’ll see how he does over the course of this week in practice.”
If he can go, Tagovailoa will face a Bengals defense that allows 26.3 points-per-game and 253.7 passing yards-per-game.
Dolphins Rushing Attack Leaves Much to be Desired in Win Over Jets
While the Dolphins defense continued to shine, the offense’s lackluster rushing attack reared its ugly head as well. Miami’s ground game lacked rhythm and was largely absent in the second quarter. While some of that falls on offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, as well as the offensive line, what’s clear is Miami doesn’t have a difference-making running back.
The Dolphins split 22 carries among three running backs and watched the trio gain 94 yards but cough up two fumbles. Matt Breida and Patrick Laird both saw their chances limited after the third quarter miscues.
DeAndre Washington submitted the best performance of the three, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for 11 yards. He may have earned himself a few more snaps moving forward, even with the eventual returns of both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.
What’s become abundantly clear is that Miami needs a difference-maker in the backfield and that player is not currently on the roster. It’s particularly important to add one, considering one of Tagovailoa’s strengths is RPO. The “run” needs to be an option.
Xavien Howard, NFL’s Best Cornerback
Xavien Howard continued his All-Pro play, too. He nabbed his league-leading seventh interception, picking off Darnold in the fourth quarter. Howard matched his career-high with seven INTs and has five games to go. He became just the second cornerback in team history with multiple 7-plus interception seasons, joining Sam Madison (1998-1999).
Howard’s 19 interceptions since 2017 also pace the NFL. What’s incredible about Howard’s ball-hawking prowess is that he missed 16 games over that span. His career 0.37 interceptions-per-game is fourth-highest among players who made their debut in the Super Bowl era, per Elias Sports.
It’s not just interceptions, either. Howard broke up three other pass attempts, giving him 50 pass breakups for his career. He has 15 passes defensed this season, tied for second-most in the league and one behind the league leader.
Darnold was 3-for-10 for 37 yards and an interception when throwing at Howard. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 50.3 passer rating when testing Howard this season.
Dolphins Win Over the Jets Propels Team Back into AFC Playoff Picture
The Dolphins dominated the Jets to the tune of 44-3 this season. Those wins helped the Dolphins keep pace in the AFC. After Week 12, Miami remains just one game behind the Bills in the AFC East. With the win Sunday, coupled with keys losses by Indianapolis and Las Vegas, the Dolphins vaulted to the 6-seed in the conference.
Miami’s move up the standings comes thanks to a superior conference record (4-3) than both the Colts (3-4) and Ravens (4-4). But with five games to go, the Dolphins have a difficult task ahead.
The Dolphins will need to secure another win next week against the floundering Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1). Minus Joe Burrow, this matchup has been robbed of its potential headline, but it remains as a must-win for Miami. The final four games lack any easy opponents for the ‘Phins.
A win versus Cincy would put the Dolphins at 8-4 for the home stretch. Then comes the team’s stiffest test yet, a date with the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1). After that, the Dolphins host New England (5-6), who could be playing for their playoff lives at that point.
What follows is another must-win: a road matchup with the Raiders (6-4). This could be a postseason play-in game. The regular season finale comes in Buffalo (8-3), and, considering the Bills have a stiff remaining schedule as well, it might very well be for the AFC East title.