It was one of the bigger Jets games in recent memory. Robert Saleh’s 2-2 ballclub hosted the 3-1 Dolphins at MetLife Stadium Sunday. Miami was looking to survive without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was out with a concussion and back injury after taking a scary hit against Cincinnati in Week 4. The Jets were looking for their first multi-game win streak since late 2020, and all in all, a huge victory over a talented Miami squad.
They got it, by way of a 40-17 thumping of their AFC East rivals.
The Jets defense started out hot. The offense…did not.
After the Dolphins forced a Jets punt on the game’s opening drive, punter Braden Mann pinned Miami at its own 8-yard line. On first down, rookie first-round corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner came on the blitz and forced a Teddy Bridgewater throwaway in the end zone. Bridgewater, the Dolphins’ temporary starting quarterback, was called for intentional grounding. This gave the Jets a quick 2-0 lead.
The hit sent Bridgewater to the locker room with elbow and head injuries. He didn’t return, and rookie seventh-rounder Skylar Thompson replaced him for the rest of the afternoon.
Even after a safety-punt return by Braxton Berrios to near midfield, the Jets still couldn’t conjure any success and eventually punted. Following another defensive stop and Miami punt, the Jets offense lucked out with back-to-back facemask penalties by the Dolphins defense. But even with a 1st-and-10 opportunity at Miami’s 22-yard line, two short runs and an incomplete pass kept New York out of the end zone. Greg Zuerlein’s 34-yard field goal extended the lead to 5-0.
Eventually, Wilson and the offense found the spark they needed. And it came in the form of a 79-yard catch-and-run by rookie running back Breece Hall on a wheel route. One play later, to start the second quarter, second-year running back Michael Carter plunged into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run. The subsequent Zuerlein PAT made the score 12-0.
The Dolphins wouldn’t go away quietly though, even with their third-string quarterback in the game. Running back Raheem Mostert capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive by turning the corner on a sweep for a 12-yard touchdown. Jason Sanders’ extra point cut the Jets’ lead to 12-7.
The Jets defense then took advantage of the Miami offense’s shortcomings. Defensive end John Franklin-Myers came with the pressure and forced an errant throw that was picked off by Gardner — the rookie’s first career interception.
This set the Jets up at their own 47-yard line. After converting three first downs, the Jets were at the five-yard line with a 3rd-and-goal, when Wilson scrambled and dove for the goal line for the touchdown. A gutsy play considering his injury history, and the Jets were up 19-7 after the extra point with 2:38 left in the second quarter.
But coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s unit then allowed a third-string quarterback to manage back-to-back scoring drives. An 8-play, 75-yard drive led to a rushing touchdown for tight end Durham Smythe with just four seconds remaining in the first half.
Then to begin the third quarter, Thompson led the Phins on a 47-yard drive that ended with a Sanders 46-yard field goal to cut the Jets’ lead to 19-17.
A defensive battle ensued. Between a punt from either team, a Jets turnover on downs, and a Dolphins missed field goal, scoring was non-existent until 9:22 remaining in the game.
After a 21-yard catch-and-run by Hall on a flood route, Carter crossed the plane for his second one-yard touchdown run of the day. The Jets led 26-17 after the extra point — Wilson was three-for-three on the drive and took advantage of good field position following Miami’s missed kick.
On the next Dolphins drive, defensive end Carl Lawson showed why the Jets gave him a three-year contract in 2021. The defensive end strip-sacked Thompson, with Quinnen Williams returning the fumble to the Dolphin 5-yard line. One play later, Hall was in the end zone to add to his already-incredible day.
The Jets went up 33-17 and never looked back.
After a Dolphins turnover on downs, Berrios took a jet sweep to the end zone. The 15-yard dagger and subsequent extra point extended the lead to 40-17.
Following another turnover on downs and a few kneel-downs from Wilson, the Jets improved to 3-2 with a victory.
A few thoughts on Sunday’s win:
Breece’s big day. The Jets drafted arguably the 2022 class’ best running back in Breece Hall in the second round. And the significant investment is already paying dividends.
The rookie finished Sunday with 197 scrimmage yards: 97 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and another 100 receiving yards on two catches. He gained 79 yards on a wheel route that set up a one-yard touchdown run for Carter in the second quarter. He then set up Carter’s second touchdown run (in the fourth quarter, again from a yard out) after a 21-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline.
Hall and Carter have the potential to be one of the league’s top running back duos. But if there’s a true No. 1 guy in the Jets backfield, it’s clearly Hall. He is just that dynamic and a great weapon to assist in Zach Wilson’s development.
Sauce’s strong showing. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner showed Sunday why he was a No. 4 overall pick in April’s draft. The rookie recorded his first career interception and also forced a Teddy Bridgewater throwaway in the end zone — which led to a safety — early in the game.
Strong secondary play, especially from the young Gardner, will be key for this Jets defense all year long. Saleh won’t be able to truly benefit from his pass-rushing weapons if opposing receivers are constantly finding space.
Everyone involved. Douglas signed tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin and drafted Hall and wide receiver Garrett Wilson in the offseason for a reason. He wanted to build a reliable slate of weapons for Zach Wilson.
This Jets offense has playmakers and should thus be getting everyone involved, which is exactly what the unit did against Miami.
Eight different players recorded catches for the Jets Sunday. Hall led the squad with his 100 receiving yards while Wilson had a team-leading three receptions.
Discipline issues. The Jets secondary should’ve just brought its own collection of yellow penalty flags for Sunday’s game.
New York was penalized five times for 105 yards, with Gardner, cornerback D.J. Reed, and slot corner Michael Carter II all being flagged for defensive pass interference.
While the Dolphins didn’t impress in this department either (11 penalties for 102 yards), the Jets need to clean the mistakes up before next Sunday’s road matchup against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.