The 3-5 New York Jets came into Miami Gardens, Florida to face the 3-4 Miami Dolphins. The following is my reaction to the game after watching the game live Sunday and then re-watching it in its entirety Monday morning. If you are not interested in revisiting the game then please scroll through to just the individual film studies and to the closing thoughts section. This is my weekly review for DolphinsTalk.com, be sure to follow them on twitter and myself @TomLikeFootball.
The narrative heading into the game
The New York Jets boast the League’s number 1 run Defense as they have surrendered only 74 yards a game on the ground. All week analysts gave the edge to New York in the match-up on the ground. This was despite Miami Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi entering the game with back-to-back 200 games (4th player in NFL History). The New York Jets also have the League’s worst passing Defense and therefore many expected a big day from Ryan Tannehill if Miami hoped to go over .500 within the division. The Dolphins would have the same Offensive Line for the third game in a row. A unit that features four 1st round picks and RG Jermon Bushrod (the non-1st rounder, being a 2x Pro-Bowler).
Both teams had won two straight entering the game and many believed that it was a win-or-go-home game in terms of both teams playoffs picture. The build-up throughout the week had been dominated by the exchange of words in the media between former Dolphins and Jets All-Pro WR Brandon Marshall and Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell. Many fans looked forward to this match up while others posed the question of just how far CB Darrelle Revis’ level of play has declined as he openly commented about his poor performance through the first half of the season. Dolphins TE Cameron Jordan who has battled concussions throughout his career has been placed on IR and is reportedly considering retirement. Divisional games always promises to be a chippy affair and the Dolphins coming off a bye looked forward to going toe-to-toe with Gang Green and putting themselves at .500 for the first time this season.
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins, Week 9
The Dolphins again had their best set of linemen both Offensively and Defensively for this weeks game. For the third straight game Miami had from Left to Right on Offense: Albert, Tunsil, Pouncey, Bushrod and James. On Defense Mario Williams again was on the bench as the Dolphins started Cam Wake at LE with Suh and Phillips Inside and Andre Branch at RE.
The first play of the game was a precursor of what was to come as it often is. New York Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass hit the dirt as the pocket collapsed all around him due to pressure from the defensive line. The Dolphins were fortunate on this opening drive not to concede a touchdown throw on two separate occasions. 2nd & 9 only three minutes in, Jets WR Robby Anderson burnt CB Byron Maxwell and should have had a touchdown but Fitzpatrick overthrew the receiver. Then on 3rd & 2 in the red zone Fitzpatrick failed to connect with Brandon Marshall who had beat Maxwell in man coverage on a slant and the Jets were forced to settle for a field goal.
Miami’s opening drive progressed thanks to some stupid penalties committed by the Jets. The Dolphins for their first three 1st downs ran the ball for negative yardage, clearly trying to establish the run game early. The Dolphins second play of the drive though was evidence of why it is important to establish the run on 1st down as Tannehill rolled out right on play action and connected with Tight End MarQueis Gray for a 20 yard pick up. The Dolphins then scored with a 20-yard touchdown run by Jay Ajayi. The play is draw up as a stretch play to the left which should see the Dolphins O-Linemen block to the left while the TE helps seal the edge by blocking the Jets Linebacker in the second level. The Dolphins will also have their Wide Receivers blocking down field.
As evidenced below, the play actually changes slightly as the TE blocking the LB ends up moving the LB off the line of scrimmage and towards the sideline in order to open up a hole for Ajayi. You can see in the picture below that Miami's Offensive Linemen execute perfectly as you can see "hat-on-hat" meaning everyone has blocked their assigned man. Ajayi sees the TE moving the LB towards the sideline and so puts his foot in the turf and cuts back upfield where there is currently no Jets defenders.
The Dolphins receivers block their assigned DBs down the field as they flow towards the sideline again creating a bigger lane for Ajayi to follow as he then moves into second gear and accelerates towards the Jets end zone. 6 points Miami on a 20 yard run against the League's best run Defense.
On the Jets next possession Cam Wake uses his speed to get round the edge and rips off the Jets Right Tackle Breno Giacomini to force a Fitzpatrick fumble which is then recovered by the RT. The Jets managed to score on this drive as the Dolphins brought seven blitzers but a mistake by LB Donald Butler who was moved from his assigned gap too easily by a Jets Offensive Linemen meant that Matt Forte went untouched into the Dolphins end zone for a 31-yard TD. Below you can see how the play was draw up and the crucial mistake by Butler who veers inwards as he sees Phillips penetrating up-field which leaves a wide open running lane that Forte exploits. In the bottom image you can see from the yellow boxes that everyone else executed apart from Butler which left a wide open alley for Forte.
Miami made it back-to-back touchdowns on their first two possessions. Back-up RB Damien Williams was impressive with a 23 yard run on 2nd & 10 before a 19 yard gain on 3rd & 9 as Tannehill threw a perfect rainbow pass as Williams ran out of the backfield while the Jets dialled up pressure with six blitzers. WR Jarvis Landry again showcased not only his great hands but his toughness as he broke tackles on 2nd & goal to put the Dolphins within touching distance of New York’s end zone. The Dolphins capped the 11 play, 75 yard, 5 minute 19 seconds drive with a touchdown pass that Tannehill fizzed into Tight End Dominique Jones.
The Dolphins Defense’s bend but don’t break make up came through on the Jets next possession as New York drove all the way down to Miami’s 2 yard line before Fitzpatrick’s pass was tipped by Ndamukong Suh’s outstretched arm on 3rd down and forced another Jets Field Goal. The Dolphins and Jets exchanged punts while Cam Wake managed to force another fumble. The Jets re-kicked a punt and the following punt was returned by Jakeem Grant for a 52-yard touchdown, however, this was called back for holding. Miami drove to the Jets’ 44 yard line before Tannehill was sacked with 30 seconds remaining in the half. The Dolphins had two timeouts and were on their own 40, yet Adam Gase elected to head into half time with a one-point lead. I believe this is particularly telling of the level of trust Adam Gase has in his Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, something I will discuss in my closing thoughts.
Half Time: New York Jets 13 – 14 Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins Offensive Line was extremely impressive on a 3rd & 10 that Tannehill failed to convert, as his receivers could not uncover down field. The Dolphins and Jets again exchanged punts as Kiko Alonso did a great job in coverage to break up a pass intended for Matt Forte. Jarvis Landry’s impressive quick footwork allowed him to sidestep a tackler while his unquestioned toughness saw him bulldoze into Jets DBs as he picked up 14 yards. Ajayi then showcased his burst and speed as he took Miami within the Jets 40 by accelerating up the side-line for a 12 yard gain. Ajayi used his cut-back ability and vision to rattle off a 12 yard gain leaving Miami knocking on the door of the Jets red zone. Miami's drive stalled out and they settled for a 33-yard Field Goal.
Dolphins Defensive Co-ordinator Vance Joseph mixed up the play calling on the Jets 1st play after the Dolphins Field Goal. Joseph dialled up a simple 3-man rush with cover 3. The Dolphins played man coverage on the Jets 4 wide receivers while Defensive Tackle Jordan Phillips faked the pass rush before dropping back into coverage. The result was a Phillips interception followed by a ridiculous display of athleticism as the 6 foot 6, 336lb linemen hurdled a Jets receiver before going down.
The Dolphins had to settle for a Field Goal, however, it could have been a lot worse as Jets LB Jordan Jenkins read the route and failed to make a simple catch which would have resulted in an 85-yard pick six. The Dolphins made a big stop on 3rd down on the next drive as Kiko Alonso was in coverage, yet this proved to be in vein as Byron Maxwell was penalised for pass interference while covering Marshall. Maxwell was called for PI again the very next play while in coverage of Marshall again. Bryce Petty briefly entered the game following a Phillips hit on Fitzpatrick; however, Petty saw limited action before the Jets kicked a Field Goal.
Miami should have responded with a 51 yard Touchdown pass, although Tannehill overthrew the pass and could not connect with rookie WR Leonte Carroo downfield. On the next Jets possession Byron Maxwell was again penalised for PI covering Brandon Marshall. This drive also featured a tremendous acrobatic effort by Jets receiver Robby Anderson who pulled in a 27 yard catch. This drive ended with Fitzpatrick having egg on his face as he threw an interception on 3rd & 8 on Miami’s 11 yard line. Bobby McCain got the INT, as Fitzpatrick and his receiver were not on the same page. Talking about egg on their face, the Dolphins went three and out before second year punter Matt Darr fumbled the punt giving the Jets the ball on Miami’s 18. Fitzpatrick hooked up with Jalin Marshall for an 18 yard touchdown pass (Bobby McCain in coverage) to put the Jets ahead. Jakeem Grant looked to give Miami a boost through special teams, however, he ran 40 yards to only the Dolphins 19 yard line. The kick was eventually retaken and fellow rookie Kenyan Drake took the ball 96 yards to the house for a Dolphins touchdown putting the ‘Fins up 27-23.
The Jets oddly elected for back-to-back runs with only 5 minutes remaining before Ndamukong Suh came up with a huge sack on 3rd & 7 forcing the Jets to punt with two timeouts remaining. Ajayi picked up 9 yards on 1st down before Gase showed inventive play calling by dialling up a play action pass to TE Dominique Jones who drew PI flags from a Jets LB. Ajayi then ran for 20 yards and 16 yards sealing the game for Miami as the Dolphins now find themselves 4-4 with 3 wins in a row.
The Dolphins are now 4-4 and very much in the AFC play off picture as they have rattled off 3 straight wins against Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets. Credit has to go to Adam Gase who has managed to put together three impressive wins against above-average NFL defenses. The offensive line is looking like a talented unit as the current line-up has now logged 3 games together in which Tannehill has only been sacked twice (17 times in the first five weeks) and Miami has rushed for 137, 256 and 222 yards (only once going over 75 yards through first five weeks). The play of the offensive line and running back Jay Ajayi has been of obvious importance, however, Adam Gase deserves credit for this turn around. While Ryan Tannehill is averaging only 3 fewer passing attempts per week over the past three weeks, Tannehill is benefiting significantly from having a strong run game, which elevates pressure from the Quarterbacks shoulders and gives Tannehill better match ups down field in play-action. The Dolphins have also changed their blocking assignment upfront in the run game and their play calling to favour Jay Ajayi’s skillset. The Dolphins now deploy inside and outside zone run plays where Ajayi who is eight yards deep can use his elite vision to pick running lanes and cut into the hole before accelerating away and ploughing through tacklers down field.
The Dolphins did a good job of sticking with the ground game despite it not yielding the results Gase would necessarily have wanted. Tannehill played ok and made some good throws, however, Gase’s decision to head in at HT and the way he now deploys the Dolphins QB suggests to me that Gase does not trust Tannehill and that there could be a QB change in Miami come the offseason (through the draft). Miami’s defensive line were dominant today as all four starting linemen recorded multiple QB pressures and Cam Wake was back to his usual productive self as he appears to be rolling back the clock with his combination of speed and power which is so disruptive round the edge. The Dolphins won the Special Teams battle all day, however, the Darr bodged punt could have cost this team if it was not for rookie RB Kenyan Drake who took a kick-off 96 yards to the house to propel this Dolphins team to 4-4. Whether it is Jakeem Grant or Kenyan Drake in the return game; Drake catching out of the backfield or Laremy Tunsil thriving in pass protection and run blocking in the second level – the Dolphins are certainly getting early production out of this rookie class and at 4-4 with a relatively easy slate of games upcoming for Miami; there is certainly plenty to be hopeful for moving forward – FINS UP!
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