Just like that, the Fins were fini. And the Jets apparently are just getting started.
"Does it feel like ‘98? Yeah, it does," strong safety Victor Green said after the Jets polished off Miami, 24-0, to rise to 7-3 - their best 10-game record in 15 years - and took over first place in the AFC East this late in the schedule for the first time since their run to the conference title game three seasons ago. "We've got a lot of football to be played, six games to go. But if we play like we played today, we'll be hard to beat."
Tell the Dolphins about it. Despite their best intentions not to let the Jets do it to them again, they lost for the eighth straight time to their division rivals. In fact, they were shut out at home for the first time since 1970 and for the first time by the Jets since forever.
One of the biggest endorsements for Gang Green came from linebacker Zach Thomas, who trashed both teams after last month's 21-17 Jets comeback win.
"I'm not going to sit here and say they suck, because they don't," Thomas said. "They've got a great team. They are a lot better than they were. They've got a lot of talent over there."
Once again versus the Dolphins, the Jets' talent was most dominant on defense. Aaron Glenn got the visitors started when wide receiver James McKnight juggled a pass right into Glenn's hands and he took the interception 60 yards for the first score with the game not 12 minutes old.
Then midway through the third quarter, Green applied the coup de grace. The Dolphins had driven to the Jets 32 in a bid to get back into the 14-0 game and faced a fourth-and-one.
"They like to do a lot of boots in that situation. (Defensive coordinator) Ted (Cottrell) made the right call," said Green, who proceeded to make the perfect play. He wired tight end Jed Weaver at the line, then made a move for bootlegging quarterback Jay Fiedler, who wanted to flip a first-down pass to Weaver. Instead, Green swatted the ball to himself and roared past Fiedler for a 63-yard interception return that all but "Fin"-ished their day's work.
"I think it was one of the best plays I've made in my career," Green said.
It was another masterful performance by Cottrell's unit, which has rebounded smartly from its first six games (giving up 385.3 yards and 25.7 points per game) to its last four (221.5 yards, 7.0 points).
"The Jets are the type of defense where you need to execute all the way down the field. They were not going to give up the big play," said Fiedler, who was responsible for four of Miami's five turnovers (three INTs, one fumble when sacked by blitzing corner Ray Mickens).
"We had a chance at a big play to James that just came off his fingertips. When you have those chances, you have to make those plays, and when you don't, you just have to keep executing down the field. We couldn't do either."
The Jets also had an offensive execution problem. Vinny Testaverde passed for a paltry 76 yards and the West Coast offense managed 162 yards, the fewest in a win since they beat the Chiefs, 13-10, with 145 yards in 1971. From then ‘til Sunday, the Jets were 0-31 in games in which they gained 185 yards or less.
But the Jets didn't need that much O with all the D they threw at the Dolphins.
"Outstanding! Fantastic!" Testaverde raved about the "other side of the ball." "Those guys are playing as good as any defense I've been around in my 15 years. It's good, as a quarterback, to see that because it makes my job easier in managing a game."
The Jets' best play came as a wrinkle off of their October surprise, when they faked a "fullback away" left to Richie Anderson and Curtis Martin took the handoff right for a 27-yard touchdown.
This time Testaverde play-faked to Anderson and Martin, then hit Laveranues Coles in the back of the end zone after Coles had put a double move on first-round rookie corner Jamar Fletcher, playing for injured starter Sam Madison.
"We didn't know if (Fletcher) was going to match up on me, so we kept the same game plan and just went at it," said Coles, who made his fourth TD catch in four games vs. Miami. "It took a long time to develop. The line gave Vinny plenty of time to fake the ball and gave me time to get open."
Almost lost in the afterglow of the decisive win was the pro debut of first-round draft pick Santana Moss.
"It feels great," Moss said of finally returning from August surgery to repair partially torn knee cartilage. "Just to be able to come out here and do the things I've been able to do in the past, running up and down the field, blocking, getting some attempts and stuff, I couldn't ask for a better start."
But Moss, like the Jets offense, didn't have a whole lot of production. He was on the field for about 15 plays, the first coming on the Jets' third offensive play of the game. He was the target of three passes but didn't catch any. And he had a fourth-quarter end-around on which he lost 6 yards.
"I did all I could do," he said. "It was my first game back; I can't be bionic. My whole thing was to get my first game behind me."
The offense was also less than bionic, which gave Edwards a theme for their bye week, complete with off days for "Victory Monday" today and a rare "Victory T-Day" on Thanksgiving.
"What we didn't do today is finish offensively," Edwards said. "I don't feel real good about that. We allowed the defense to play way to many snaps. The defense created turnovers, but if they didn't we'd probably still be out there 0-0."
Then again, probably not. As center Kevin Mawae said before the game, the more the Dolphins talked about the Jets not being in their heads, the more he knew the Jets were in their heads.
And as Coles said of the Jets' work ethic now that they have passed the Dolphins in the standings: "Being in first place doesn't feel like anything now. We've got to get back to the drawing board and get better in a lot of areas to get where we want to be, which is to the playoffs and then the Super Bowl. I think we have to keep our focus and not get caught up in being in first place."