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The Miami Dolphins (6-10) refused to pass up a golden opportunity to end the season of the hated New York Jets (8-8), on New Year’s Day. A 19-17 victory by the Dolphins knocked New York out of contention for the sixth and final AFC postseason seed – meaning there will once again be no Super Bowl title for Gang Green, despite coach Rex Ryan’s preseason prediction.
But that didn’t sway Ryan to take the high road for a change. “I’m always going to chase the Super Bowl,” said Ryan. “I know I get criticized for it beyond belief, but if you don’t, then you’re probably a loser, OK? I’m not a loser.”
Two straight losses following an 8-5 start put the Jets in a position where they needed a significant amount of help to make a playoff run for the third consecutive season under Ryan. New York understood that a win against the Dolphins would be meaningless unless it was accompanied by losses for Tennessee, Cincinnati, and Denver/Oakland.
Scoreboard watching was unnecessary once this one was all said and done. New York had a slight advantage coming into the ball game, as 1,000 yard runner Reggie Bush and Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long were both unable to play due to knee and arm injuries, respectively. Bush’s 5.0 yards per carry was the highest average among 1,000 yard rushers this season.
Fourth year running back, Steve Slaton, replaced Bush and had 55 yards on 11 carries. The Jets had the upper hand on the ground with 129 combined yards in comparison to only 82 for the Dolphins. LaDanian Tomlinson made history yet again, as he passed former Steeler great, Jerome Bettis, for 5th on the all time rushing list with 56 yards on the day.
A 44 yard Dan Carpenter field goal gave Miami an early 3-0 lead with 9:31 remaining in the first. Mark Sanchez responded with a one yard play action touchdown pass to tight end Justin Keller to put the Jets ahead 7-3 with just under 6 minutes in the quarter. The drive covered 77 yards in 8 plays.
Unable to take advantage of an Antonio Cromartie interception later in the quarter, the Jets defense would nonetheless hold Miami at bay and allow their offense to extend the lead to 10-3 with a 31 yard field goal late in the second quarter. Safety Brodney Pool’s interception with 25 seconds remaining in the half set the Jets up at their own 45, giving them a chance to take a two possession lead before entering the locker room.
A crucial interception by defensive lineman Randy Starks quickly erased Matt Moore’s interception. Miami suddenly cut the lead to 10-6 with a 58 yard field goal as time expired. It was an atrocious first half passing-wise. Sanchez and Matt Moore had a total of just 106 yards while throwing the 3 interceptions.
Miami took their first lead of the game in the 4th with a record-setting drive. It was the longest possession of the season in regards to both time and amount of plays. The Dolphins went 94 yards downfield in 12 minutes and 29 seconds. A one yard 3rd and goal touchdown pass to Charles Clay on the 21st play put them ahead 13-10 with 10:27 remaining in regulation.
“I didn’t realize how long it was,” said Moore. “It was unbelievable, just a great job on everybody’s part.” Not since 1993 had the Jets given up a drive consisting of 21 plays. A 41 yard field goal made the score 16-10 Miami with 7:11 left to go following another Starks interception of Sanchez.
New York moved the ball all the way down to the Miami 10 on the next possession, but Sanchez’s third interception of the afternoon cost them mightily. Linebacker Marvin Mitchell recorded the pick and returned the ball back to the Jets 36. Miami tacked on another field goal to take a two possession lead, 19-10 with 2:32 on the clock.
Brandon Marshall sealed the win for the Dolphins with an onside kick recovery after a late Jets touchdown. Receiver Santonio Holmes appeared to quit on his team and was benched during the drive. This marked the first time in 95 career games where he did not record a reception.
New York finishes the season at .500 and goes into the offseason with several unanswered questions concerning their leadership and identity. The Dolphins now know what they’re capable of, winning 6 of their final 9 after an 0-7 start.
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