After much consideration, Reshad Jones went with how the Miami Dolphins closed out the win. That was the best part, the Dolphins safety figured. Oh, sure, he rubbed his chin and looked in the air before answering, because it was hard to select just one thing, especially for the defense.
“A lot of good stuff happened for us,” he said at his locker after the Dolphins’ 20-12 win over the New York Jets.
The defense held the Jets to 42 yards rushing. It had two interceptions leading to 14 points. Jones helped tackle Jets tight end Chris Herndon inches short of the goal line to end the first half. Xavien Howard intercepted rookie Sam Darnold in the end zone the play right after the Jets recovered a fumble by quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“But how we closed it out, that sticks out,” he said. “That’s how you want to do it.”
With the defense on the sideline? Watching the offense run the ball and the clock?
“That was something to see,” he said.
Through two games, several things are new to see. The team speed is noticeable. The versatile playmakers on offense suggest, as expected, Jarvis Landry won’t be missed. The defensive front seven’s play keeps showing, in a surprise, Ndamukong Suh isn’t missed, either.
What happened when the Dolphins got the ball for the final time Sunday won the day, though. The situation: Six minutes left. Ball at the Dolphins’ 25-yard line. The Jets had just ended a 10-play drive by kicking a field goal to pull within, 20-12.
This moment, right here, is where Dolphins have lost games for 15 years — and won them in their two playoff seasons in that span.
“They had the attitude that they were not going to let [the Jets] get the ball back,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “We felt good about what we had ready to go for that series. It was good chatter on the sideline. [The Jets] knew what was coming.”
The Dolphins would run the ball. That was coming.
“No great secret,” tackle Ja’Wuan James said.
First play: Kenyan Drake runs up the middle and cuts outside for 20 yards. That set a tone. Frank Gore then ran up the middle. Another 5 yards. This drive wasn’t power, up-the-gut runs, though.
The Dolphins might not have that in their repertoire, especially with pile-driving guard Josh Sitton lost for the year. So Tannehill went around end for 14 yards and another first down. They were at the Jets’ 36. Four minutes left.
A couple of Drake runs then went backward. That didn’t just set up third-and-19. It knocked them out of field-goal range. A pass was called with Kenny Stills the primary receiver. He was covered. So were a couple of other options.
Enter Gore. He became the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history earlier Sunday. Now he showed another reason he’s stuck around so long. He stayed in to block, but when the Jet he was watching didn’t rush, he leaked out as a receiver.
Tannehill dumped the ball to Gore, who made a nifty catch. He then ran for a 19 yards. He knew that, with this first down, the win was in hand. Just over three minutes remained.
“When my number’s called, I do my best to make it happen,” Gore said.
It wasn’t a perfect day. Tannehill fumbled twice and held onto the ball too long, taking a few unnecessary sacks. The offense, in general, is being carried by the defense these first two weeks.
Plus, there was Darnold. He looked like a young quarterback making young quarterback mistakes. But he had no running game, no proven receiver and threw for 334 yards. Something says he’ll be a Dolphins headache in a way no Jets quarterback has been for a while.
You can quibble and nit-pick and wonder if this is sustainable. But they’re 2-0. They won on the road. They actually took the ball with six minutes left and ran out the clock.
“We were getting ready to go, but they did a tremendous job making plays, getting first downs,” defensive end Cameron Wake said.
“There’s something special going on here,” defensive end Robert Quinn said. “I’m the new guy. I’m trying to figure it out and buy in the program, learning everyone’s personalities. Just another piece of the puzzle. Once we come together, it’ll be special.”
We’ll see. You can go this far: It’s a different look this year. The speed. The versatility. The running out of the clock. But Gase put 2-0 into his best Belichick-ian perspective.
“On to next week,” he said.