Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1. Player of the game: Tua Tagovailoa. He did everything he asked. He completed 27-of-33 passes in 273 yards a touchdown and an interception. He was not good. He was not asked to be more than effectively good. And he got through on the road. The one way the Dolphins lose to the oppressed Jets is if Tua makes a mistake. He stepped into a throw and hit a wide open Mack Hollins for a 65-yard touchdown after Jets rookie Isaiah Dunn blew cover. OK, that was a bit submissive if you want style points. But Tua later hung in against a rush and made a good throw-in and what turned out to be the winning touchdown, a 5-yarder to Myles Gaskin over the middle. That was right, it was the Jets who have the worst scoring defense in the league (allowing 32.9 points a game into Sunday). And Tua threw a bad pass to an interception to put the Jets’ first run. But for the most part, he did what he was asked to do and did well.
2. Shows the offensive line some signs of life? Maybe? Just a pulse? Tua was not fired all day against a defense that is in 18th place. The run also showed efficiency with 32 carries for 116 yards (Gaskin had 23 or 89 yards). The drive of the game came when the Dolphins took the ball on the Jets 49 with 8:50 left and milked 6:50 from the clock. Gaskins ran two Wildcat games in third-down for first downs. Tua completed a third-down pass for another. The showdown ended with a battle-sealed field goal that made it 24-14 with 1:57 left.
3. Joe Flacco, a very veteran veteran of 37, started for the Jets in part because the Dolphins lead the league in the flash. It was a white flag against the Jets that threw the dice without rookie Zach Wilson. Even Flacco was receptive to being surprised. On second-and-goal from the Dolphins 6-yard line in the second quarter when safety Brandon Jones blind-sideed him to cause a fumble. Christian Wilkins recovered, then Jevon Holland rediscovered Wilkins’ fumble. But you saw the one thing Flacco could do. Facing a blitz, he threw to Elijah Moore, who beat cornerback Byron Jones for a 63-yard touchdown. That’s about as much as the fluttering Jets offense could be expected to do – especially when their one regular threat, running back Michael Carter, went out midway through the game with a knee injury after nine balls at 63 yards.
If the dolphins are to win defense and field goals – ala Tony Sparano’s Dolphins – then Jason Sanders must get back in shape. He scored 36 out of 39 field goals last year. He has made 13 of 18 this year after missing a 32-yard just before halftime and reaching the 24-yard near the end. Then again, maybe it was The Meadowlands? Jets kicker Matt Ammendola missed kicks at 55 and 40 yards.
5. I’d rather have Tua with the ball than the dolphins’ regular use of Wildcat in short yardage and goal line situations against the league’s worst scoring defense. The Wildcats’ use suggests a few things: 1) They do not trust the conventional offense; 2) Tua is not going to run the ball at all – and he does not trust the red zone; 3) There is the annoying issue of passport protection. That said, after two Wildcat games did little in the fourth quarter, Tua hung in a collapsing pocket to find Gaskin for a 5-yard TD to make it 21-14. He was 8-for-8 in 68 yards on the drive.
6. The dolphins’ first ride in the game: 83 yards for a touchdown. Rest of the first half: 80 yards in total, no points. Why was the first Dolphins drive so creative and efficient? Did having 10 days to prepare have anything to do with it? Tua completed all six passes in 61 yards. Mike Gesicki, who did not have a catch the previous week, caught the first two passes where he was scheduled to open for a 26-yard win. Gaskins’ first two runs went on 17 yards combined. The drive ended with Gaskins in a Wildcat formation passing to an in-motion Jaylen Waddle who hit two Jets to the corner for a 3-yard touchdown. The 11-game, 83-yard drive was really the same kind of short passes that…
7.… Defined the Dolphins offense throughout the year as exposed just before half. The Jets missed a field goal to give the Dolphins the ball on their 45-yard line by 1:06 before halftime. Tua threw short finishes in a row on 7, 7, 6, 9, 1 and 8 yards – the hope of being one of those short passes could break up for a big win. They used all three time-outs. But they took no shots at deep – nothing vertical to than zone even. Then Sanders’ 32-yard field goal attempt hit upright for a miss.
8. Quick hits:
* The Jets wasted two time-outs midway through the third quarter, both after first downs. Characteristic of a poorly run team.
* Indianapolis beat Buffalo – in Buffalo. AFC East looks like it’s the Patriots taking over right now.
* San Francisco beat Jacksonville 5-5. Since the Dolphins own San Francisco’s first round next year, that’s important.
9. Jaylen Waddle caught eight passes on 65 yards to continue an excellent rookie season. He is the most productive receiver on the team – and it looks like it will not be close to the regular list of injuries. Preston Williams had a goal in the back of the goal zone on Sunday, made almost a nice catch – and appeared to be injured in the shoulder.
10. Carolina by the Dolphins. The Dolphins played their 57-day one-road game Sunday in New York. Carolina came into Sunday’s game against Washington at 5-5 with a plus-12 point difference. It’s been a trying year for Matt Rhule as he tried to find a quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater last year. Sam Darnold struggled until he was injured this year. Now Cam Newton is the filling.
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