For the first half, the Miami Dolphins had everything under control. And, at the end, the scoreboard looked right: Dolphins 20, Jets 12.
So all’s well that ends well, even in a game the Dolphins matched the Jets sloppiness at times. You win on the road, in the division, and you don’t worry about style points, though.
Here are 10 thoughts on the win:
1. Player of the game: Give it to the entire defensive line. All summer, the question was about how much Ndamukong Suh would be missed. Through two games, the answer: Not much. OK, it’s just two games. But they kept a decent Tennessee running game under control in the first week and applied pressure to Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and stopped the Jets running game Sunday. They rushed 19 times for 42 yards — a 2.2-yard average. They sacked Darnold three times and kept him under good pressure. Again, two games. But it’s been a good two games for one of the areas being watched this year.
2. Plays of the game: 1) With 10 seconds left in the first half at the Dolphins’ 14-yard line, Sam Darnold threw a pass over the middle to tight end Chris Herndon, who was hit at the 2 by Reshad Jones, fumbled, picked up the ball and tackled at the 1 by Bobby McCain. The Jets left the field with no points at half; 2) The play after Ryan Tannehill fumbled the ball at his 12-yard line, Xavien Howard intercepted Darnold in the end zone. That kept the Jets from pulling within a touchdown a few minutes into the second half; 3) On third-and-19 at the Jets 45, Frank Gore becomes a receiver when the Jet he was expecting to block doesn’t rush. He makes a good pass from Tannehill and runs for a 20-yard reception. That first down with 2:39 left effectively allowed the Dolphins to either run out the clock or, at worst, kick a field goal to put the game out of reach..
3. Ryan Tannehill had some nice plays, particularly the 19-yard strike to tight end A.J. Derby for a touchdown that was a laser. He opened the game with a 20-yard run, and effectively ended the game with his legs as he ended up with eight carries for 44 yards. Passing? Well, he was 17 of 23 for 168 yards, two touchdowns and an 123.1 rating. All told, he won. That’s what he’s asked to do. But you also saw some perplexing decisions for a seven-year veteran. He was sacked three times in the first half (a fourth was called back by defensive holding). But those weren’t really on the offensive line. Tannehill had plenty of time on the first two and didn’t throw the ball away. On the third, he saw the blitz coming and still didn’t throw the ball away. By now, you’d hope he’d realize not taking a sack can be the best option of a play. He also lost the ball on a Jets blitz in the third quarter in which the Ghost of John Beck seemed to strike him. He turned to find Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins in his face, went to throw and the ball came out of his hand. Jenkins fell on it at the Dolphins’ 12. Pocket presence? Again, shouldn’t be an issue at this point.
4. Sam Darnold has the early look of someone the Dolphins will worry about for years. He made some bonehead plays, throwing the interception to Howard and another right at T.J. McDonald early in the game. He does have a tendency to that, as he showed in college. But you also saw some of the arm and footwork that will come into play if he gets some of the decision-making under control. He completed 25-of-41 passes for 334 yards with no running game and, really, little talent around him. We’ll see where this goes in the coming years. But every AFC East team outside New England has looked for a quarterback for the past two decades. Darnold showed enough talent to think the Jets might be onto something.
5. One thing the Dolphins controlled: Field position. That was thanks primarily to punter Matt Haack. The Jets’ best field position in the first half was at their 25-yard line after kickoffs. They also started after Haack’s punts at their own 4, 8 10, 15 and 17 yard lines. In the second half, he punted the Jets to their 7-yard line and 14-yard line (aided by a block in the back) penalty. Being constantly backed up didn’t just hurt the Jets offense, obviously. It meant when the Dolphins caused a turnover, it was in good field position. T.J. McDonald intercepted a Darnold pass at the Jets’ 46 and returned it to the 15. Kiko Alonso forced a fumble and Raekwon McMillan recovered it at the Jets’ 49.
6. So how much did the Dolphins miss Josh Sitton? Well, you always miss good players and Sitton was the best run blocker on the offense and a good ally for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. That said, Ted Larsen is a veteran who stabilized the line when he returned from injury last year. Tannehill, as mentioned in the previous point, had decent protection. On the TD throw to Derby, he had all the time in the world. The rushing game? They ran 12 times for 64 yards in the first half (though 20 were on Tannehill keeping the ball around right end on the first play).
7. Hey, let’s have some notice for the team picture the Dolphins took in the end zone after Albert Wilson’s touchdown. Creative? Check. Funny? Check. You could even call it team-building since the entire offense was invited in (though if you watch the video Tannehill strangely makes sure to stay out of the picture).
8. This defense has come up with five turnovers in two games. That’s a healthy pace. But one area they’d better shore up is the middle of the field. Safeties Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald have had tackling issues early on this year and were both beaten badly on plays — Jones for a 44-yard pass to Terrelle Pryor near the end of the first half. Throw in middle linebacker Raekwon McMillian getting beat in pass coverage by Bilal Powell en route to a 19-yard touchdown pass and there’s issues here. McMillan was drafted with the idea of being a two-down linebacker. We’ll see where this goes. But you can be sure opposing offenses will be looking at this.
9. Speaking of strategic attacks, the Dolphins went at Jets cornerback Buster Skrine all day. Four years ago, Skrine blitzed all day and was never accounted for as the Jets beat the Dolphins in London (Joe Philbin’s final game). On this Sunday, he became the Dolphins best friend. He had two holding penalties on third down to give the Dolphins first downs. He also was thrown at regularly, meaning he was seen as a weak link in the secondary.
10. Next week: Raiders at Dolphins. Jon Gruden brings his Oakland team to Hard Rock Stadium. This game got easier for right tackle Ja’Wuan James when Gruden traded Kahlil Mack (though the October game against Chicago got more difficult). A 1 p.m. game against a West Coast team that’s not real good? The Dolphins are looking at 3-0.