The Jets, a club that tasted its fair share of adversity through the season's first eight games, fell to 1-7 at the midway point with a 26-18 defeat to the previously winless Dolphins. Despite an eight-catch effort from Jamison Crowder, four sacks and nine tackles for loss from the defense, a James Burgess safety and a 78-yard kickoff return from Vyncint Smith, the Green & White were done in by their former journeyman quarterback — Ryan Fitzpatrick — as the 36-year-old gunslinger threw for three touchdown passes and 288 yards and commanded most of the afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
There were two plays in the final quarter that epitomized this contest for the visitors. Facing a second-and-15 from their 10 and with Sam Darnold in shotgun formation, the Dolphins blitzed CB Nik Needham and the Jets' QB never saw him coming. Needham delivered a crushing blow on the unsuspecting Darnold.
Moments later with the Jets backed up and in the shadow of their own end zone, the offensive line and Darnold weren't on the same page. Right guard Brian Winters tapped C Jonotthan Harrison to snap the ball, but the ball went right by the second-year QB, who wasn't prepared to make a play. It was poor miscommunication and frustrations boiled over on the field as Winters seemed upset at his QB.
"It's not fun," Darnold said. "Every single game we try to go out there and win, put our best foot forward and we just didn't today. We had a really good first drive, put some good plays together, got a touchdown and after that, just too much inconsistency."
The Jets had 10 penalties marked off for 105 yards and they often couldn't get off the field on third down with Miami going 6-of-12 and converting on 3-of-4 inside the red zone. Le'Veon Bell had 25 offensive touches and 121 yards but was held to 3.9 yards a carry in the run game.
See Best Images from the Road Trip to Miami
For the second consecutive week, the Jets scored a touchdown on their opening possession. Darnold connected on 6-of-8 passes on the march including a 12-yard scoring pass to Crowder, his first TD reception as a Jet, to give the Green & White a 7-0 lead. Demaryius Thomas, who had a fourth-down conversion earlier on the drive, created some traffic for Crowder before the slot wideout released towards the pylon for an easy score.
Things got better from there as the Jets pinned the Dolphins back deep on the ensuing kickoff and rookie DL Quinnen Williams, the No. 3 overall selection in April's NFL Draft, registered his first full sack of his NFL career as he brought down Ryan Fitzpatrick on the 'Fins' second play from scrimmage. But the Green & White wasted a golden opportunity to take early command. Up 7-0 and with a first-and-10 at the Miami 29, LG Alex Lewis was called for holding and was beat on third down by rookie DT Christian Wilkins for a sack, which led the Jets to settle for a field goal attempt. Kicker Sam Ficken misfired right on a 49-yard try and Fitz and the 'Fins had life.
"At the end of the day, we didn't play well enough to win," head coach Adam Gase said. "Too many penalties, too many plays that we're in position for, and we're not making the plays that we need to."
Although the Jets batted down a trio of balls at the line of scrimmage in the first half with LB Tarell Basham getting a pair, Fitzpatrick got hot and led the winless 'Fins on a 21-point run with three touchdown passes in the second stanza. Preston Williams, an undrafted free agent WR from Colorado State, had a pair of scores on Darryl Roberts sandwiched around DeVante Parker's impressive one-handed grab with Nate Hariston draped on him.
But at the end of the half, the Jets closed with some momentum. Smith's 78-yard kickoff return set the Jets up deep but Darnold's 2-yard TD toss to Ryan Griffin was overruled when replay officials deemed the veteran tight end, looking for his third touchdown in two weeks, did not maintain possession when he tumbled out of the back of the end zone. On the ensuing snap, Darnold made a poor decision with a defender hanging on him as he tried to throw the ball away, but a Dolphins defender got a piece of Darnold and CB Jomal Wiltz picked off the jump ball on the 1-yard line. Yet the Jets managed to score anyway as Burgess was credited with a safety when Fitzpatrick couldn't handle a snap and wasn't able to advance the ball out of the end zone. Ficken's 52-yarder made it a 21-12 contest at half.
"It was very tough to take another loss, but you have to give them credit," safety Jamal Adams said. "We came out and battled and we didn't play all four quarters good as a team. We have to play as a team."