*Updated, 5:15 p.m. ET
*The Jets normally enjoy their jaunts to South Florida, seeing how they've won seven of their last nine games at the Dolphins' home stadium with a lot of green-clad fans in attendance.
But whether it was the Green & White's banged-up lineup vs. the Aqua & Coral's bye-week-rested troupe, or two more second-half Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions, or some very untimely penalties, the Dolphins turned hostile hosts this afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium with a hard-earned 27-23 victory.
The loss, which followed a Fitzpatrick-to-Jalin Marshall go-ahead TD and then a kickoff-return score by rookie Kenyan Drake after a Jets offside call on the first kickoff, dropped the Jets to 3-6 and handed them their first AFC East loss, while the 'Fins improved to 4-4 with their third-straight win — and their first in their last five home games against the Green & White.
No room for error now? "We didn't really have room for error when the season started," head coach Todd Bowles said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win this one, we didn't win six of 'em. We've got to win ballgames."
"It always hurts to lose," said Fitzpatrick, who came back from a third-quarter knee injury to finish the game. "But to lose in that fashion, and credit to the Dolphins, I thought they did a nice job today, but it's a tough one for us."
Here are 11 observations as the game unfolded under the South Florida sun:
1. Opening on Top
The Jets took the game's opening drive 70 yards deep into the Miami territory before the Dolphins' league-leading red zone defense stiffened. The finished without a touchdown on their last eight opening drives yet Nick Folk's 23-yard field goal was their fourth FG in that span and they got out front early, 3-0.
2. Losing Their Cool
Steve McLendon, Jordan Jenkins and Calvin Pryor each had a tackle for loss of Jay Ajayi on his first three carries. But the defense, despite the Jets wearing their white jerseys in a day game at Miami for the first time since '71, lost their cool on the opening drive as Buster Skrine (unnecessary roughness) and Pryor (unsportsmanlike conduct) undid that. Finally, Ajayi broke loose for a 20-yard TD run and a 7-3 lead. It was the opponents' fourth opening-drive touchdown in the last eight games and the eighth straight game the opponents have scored the game's first TD.
Bowles acknowledged the chippiness of the game on both sides but said, "It can't happen. We've got to have more composure than that." The Jets had six penalties for 60 yards in the first half, 10 for 77 on the game.
3. Rushing Back
Matt Forte matched Ajayi's burst with one of his own bursting through left-side "heavy" blocks by Brandon Bostick and Dakota Dozier against a Miami run blitz for a 31-yard jaunt to a 10-7 Jets lead. It was Forté's eighth TD as a Jet (seven rush) and set him up to join Emerson Boozer as the only two Jets to score two-plus TDs in three straight games. (Boozer did it five straight in '67.)
4. Strong Fish
The Dolphins offense showed versatility on their second drive to Ryan Tannehill's 1-yd TD strike to TE Dominique Jones past Jordan Jenkins and a 14-10 lead with 10:16 left in the first half. The 'Fins' "other" back, Damien Williams, had a 23-yard run and 19-yard reception on the drive, Jarvis Landry threw a pass off a lateral (incomplete), and Jones made his first pro TD catch.
5. Small Victory Before Half
The Jets crept to within 14-13 on Folk's second field goal, then the defense forced its first punt. The Jets had a chance to drive to their third two-minute TD of the season, but instead went 3-and-out and for the second week in a row were in danger of giving up a two-minute score after failing to move the ball in their own two-minute situation. At least the Jets D shut the door on another drive, with a sack of Tannehill split by Lorenzo Mauldin and Josh Martin (first sack in two years) driving the Fish out of FG range and ending the first half.
Top Images from the Week 9 Matchup in Miami
6. Picked Clean
Ryan Fitzpatrick had no turnovers for the past 2½ games but that streak ended late in the third quarter when he tried to thread a pass to TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and didn't see 329-pound DT Jordan Phillips dropping into coverage on the zone blitz. Phillips rumbled 17 yards to the Jets 14 Rookie LB Jordan Jenkins almost returned the favor and then some but dropped a perhaps 85-yard INT-return score as Tannehill tried to hit Ajayi on a swing pass. Still, Franks converted his second FG of the quarter and the hosts moved ahead, 20-13.
The Jets in the red zone finished with one TD in five drives against the NFL's No. 1 red zone defense. Most frustrating part of the loss? "Yeah, I think so," said Fitzpatrick. "Not being able to punch it in inside the 10 a couple of opportunities, and the interception as well."
7. Relief QB
Fitzpatrick led a drive back across midfield. Then on a deep ball for Brandon Marshall, he was hit low by Phillips, the star of the previous series, for roughing. Fitz left the field with a leg issue, bringing on Bryce Petty for his first pro action. He could only drive them to the Miami 10 but Folk's third FG trimmed the lead to 20-16 with 12:50 to play.
8. Fitz Back
Fitzpatrick returned and looked fine in getting the Jets down to the Miami 13 on a Brandon Marshall interference call against Byron Maxwell, Quincy Enunwa's first catch for 25 yards, then a 27-yard grab (originally ruled a 40-yard TD) to Robby Anderson. But Fitz, apparently looking for a jumpball in the back of the end zone, instead found only Dolphins, with CB Bobby McCain grabbing the second pick of the day as a great scoring opportunity went away for the visitors with 7:00 to play.
9. Special Gift from Miami
But in a nearly mirror image of what happened to Lachlan Edwards a few weeks back, Dolphins P Matt Darr muffed a high snap and the Jets took over at the Miami 18. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick roped a pass to rookie Jalin Marshall over the middle for the score that gave the Jets a 23-20 lead. It appeared just maybe the Green & White might pull off their first three-game win streak after overcoming halftime deficits in all of them. Yet that lead with 5:42 left was not safe because ...
10. Dagger by Drake
After Antonio Allen was called for being offside on the kickoff, Folk kicked off once more and on this time Drake came in and creased the coverage for a 96-yard return — the first by a Jets opponent since 2012 — to put the Dolphins back on top, 27-23, with 5:15 left.
11. Crowning Touch by Ajayi
Ajayi was held in check most of the afternoon and did not threaten to set the NFL record with his third consecutive 200-yard rushing performance. But with the Dolphins getting the ball back before the two-minute warning, Ajayi had 20- and 16-yard bolts for a 111-yard game against the Jets' depressed defense to run out the clock.
Sheldon Richardson, who along with Muhammad Wilkerson didn't play the first quarter ("Coach's decision," said Bowles several times), summed it up:
"We gave them a lot of plays on penalties. We gave them the game. And they capitalized, so kudos to them. They had big plays at the end of the game, especially in the run game. That's it."