EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - For the past five weeks hardly anything went the way the Jets planned it, today everything broke their way as the beat the Dolphins in every phase of the game and completed a season-sweep of their division rivals in a runaway 38-20 victory.
After quarterbacking his worst two games of the season the last two weeks Ryan Fitzpatrick turned in his best performance of the season (throwing for 277 yards, with 22 completions on 37 attempts, no turnovers and four touchdowns), the defense (led by the superb play of Calvin Pryor) played phenomenal football and the Dolphins simply had no answer for Brandon Marshall.
"He's a dominate receiver in this league and has been for 10 years. It's just the confidence factor," Fitzpatrick said. "When I throw the ball to him I know he's going to come down with it. I felt like we did a good job today of taking it when it was there and not, me especially, not forcing it or forcing the issue when things weren't happening. That's something we have to continue to do and get better at."
With the Jets offense the talk is always about how they need to rely on the running game to open up the passing game but today they flipped the script. The Jets struggled to run the ball through three quarters, Chris Ivory finished the game with 87 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown but 54 of those yards came in the fourth quarter after the game had been decided. For the first three quarters Ivory only ran for 33 yards on 11 carries as the Jets just weren't able to exploit the Dolphins vulnerable rushing defense, but this was hardly a problem because the passing attack was able to have their way with the Dolphins secondary.
Marshall was targeted 11 times and caught nine of them for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Miami cornerback Brent Grimes was repeatedly abused by Marshall play after play.
"Brandon played great today," Bowles said. "When he plays calm and under control, he is a great player. He's a tough matchup, we all know that. They played him one-on-one a little and he made some plays."
Eric Decker had a bad drop that would've been a touchdown but still chipped in with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown and the rookie receiver Devin Smith finally got his name in the scoring column as he caught his first touchdown pass of his NFL career.
"Like I said last week, I feel like he's (Smith) been playing fast," Bowles said. "It (was) just a matter of time before he came up through for us. He had two big catches for us today. I feel great for the kid. He's been practicing and getting better."
The defense played lights out throughout the first three quarters before allowing the Dolphins to rack up 155 yards and two touchdowns in garbage time. The Jets hurried and pressured Ryan Tannehill as they made him look awful throughout most of the game, Tannehill had 178 yards, going 18-32, for one touchdown and an interception and a QB rating of 69.5 through the first three quarters as the Jets were able to jump out to a 21-7 lead. The Jets would expand that lead to 35-7 early in the fourth quarter before the Dolphins were able to pad their stats and the scoreboard well after the game had been decided.
With the scored still tied at 0-0 early in the first quarter Marcus Williams came away with a huge interception in the red zone and from there the rest of the Jets defense took over as Williams had to leave the game with a sprained knee. Erin Henderson saw the most playing time he's seen all season, at the expense of DeMario Davis, and it paid off as Henderson made several plays.
When Bowles was asked about his decision to rotate Henderson and Davis so much Bowles said, "You have to earn your playing time around here and Erin has done that. He got some plays." But while Marshall was clearly the offensive MVP of the day the defense MVP honors clearly go to Pryor.
After the game Marshall walked by Pryor in the locker room and said "that's the tone-setter. Troy Polamalu right there." Marshall has clearly shown a tendency to shower his teammates with some hyperbolic praise, as good as Pryor has been he's got a long way to go before he can be considered in Polamalu's class, but he's 100 percent right about Pryor being the "tone-setter."
The Jets had their worst tackling performances of the season without Pryor, today they put forth their best tackling performance of the season with Pryor making several great open-field tackles to prevent the Dolphins from picking up an extra yards and establishing any type of rhythm.
With this win the Jets improve to 6-5 and, while the competition will be harder as the weeks go on, if they can play as well as they did today, in every facet of the game (even Jeremy Kerley chipped in with a 58 yard punt return) they're chances of capturing a playoff spot might have just been resurrected today.
INJURY NEWS AND NOTES:
Marcus Williams left the game and didn't return with a sprained knee. After the game he told reporters he thinks he'll be okay and is day-to-day. Williams has performed fantastically in spot duty, snatching his league-leading fifth intercepting of the season.
Calvin Pace suffered an abdominal sprain and is also listed as day-to-day.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)