The Jets had an opportunity to make their climb back toward .500 and simultaneously rock an AFC East foe back on its heels. They got some of their key players on offense back with the returns of WRs Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson from injuries and RB Elijah McGuire activated off Injured Reserve. They got some strong, at times stifling defense that gave up no touchdowns.
But the Green & White didn't get any better field position than they did in their previous two games, losses to NFC North opponents. They got more wild shotgun snaps and three-and-outs and interceptions, and this time they didn't get any TDs, either.
It all added up to an ugly 13-6 road loss to the Miami Dolphins. Even though the Jets outgained the Dolphins, 282 yards to 168, they could manage only two Jason Myers field goals while rookie QB Sam Darnold threw a career-high four interceptions.
With the defeat, the Jets lost their third straight game and fell to 3-6 on the season, while the Dolphins ended their two-game skid and rose to 5-4. The pressure to find a win and then stack it with another one after that builds in the coming week with the Jets facing the Buffalo Bills back at MetLife Stadium next Sunday.
Here are nine chronological takeaways from today's game at Hard Rock Stadium:
1. No Opening Magic
Darnold opened well by hitting his first four passes, the fourth a 28-yarder to fellow rookie Chris Herndon for the Jets' first first down of the day. But two plays later Darnold missed rookie WR Deontay Burnett and found LB Kiko Alonso, who returned the interception to the Miami 44 and Brandon Shell's late hit added 15 yards to that. Yet the Jets defense, with LB Avery Williamson (5 tackles, sack) and CB Buster Skrine (4 tackles, PD) flashing, made big first-half stops.
2. Welcome Back, Eli
McGuire, activated Saturday for this game, almost got his first carry early in the game, only to have the Jets call timeout as the playclock ran down. But in the second period McGuire finally did get his first official carries of the season, moving for 6 yards on first down, then 14 on third-and-19. It was a good return to action for No. 25, but the Jets offense continued to struggle with no points and four 3-and-outs on their first five drives.
3. Dolphins Capitalize
The Jets were again falling into a familiar field position hole, which led to a mini-disaster as Osweiler started finding his receivers, converting a 4th-and-3 pass to RB Kenyan Drake and a third-and-12 to WR Jakeem Grant. But S Jamal Adams rode to the rescue, posting a knock-back tackle of Frank Gore short of the sticks on second down, then a backfield PD of Osweiler off the blitz to force Miami to convert a 51-yard drive with James Sanders' second field goal and a 6-0 lead with 1:11 left in the half.
4. Jets Response
That was enough time for Darnold and his receivers to mount their longest drive and first scoring drive of the game. Enunwa's first catch in three weeks gave Myers a shorter field by 8 yards to help him guide in a 48-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half. It was Myers' 12th consecutive FG, his seventh in a row on the road, and his 15th straight from 40 to 49 yards. Most important, it cut the Jets' deficit to 6-3 and gave them an ember to keep alive as they headed into the second half, where they were set to receive the second-half kickoff.
5. Third Gear
The Jets defense continued to frustrate the home side in the second half. Jordan Jenkins had a third-down sack of Osweiler, then the next series so did Jeremiah Attaochu, which was the visitors' fourth sack of the game. The Dolphins were 3-for-13 on third down against the unit that came into the game as the No. 4 defense in preventing third-down conversions. But the defense needed help ...
6. Let's Face It
Help came in the form of facemask calls against the Dolphins on two straight plays. The first, by DE Andre Branch of Darnold on a third-down sack, gave the Jets a first down at their 47. The next, on LB Raekwon McMillan trying to keep McGuire from getting away on a swing pass, advanced it to the Dolphins 36. The Jets moved it to the 20, and then ... a Darnold sack by Cameron Wake, his second ... a delay of game when C Spencer Long didn't see Darnold signaling for the shotgun snap as the playclock expired ... a dropped pass by WR Jermaine Kearse ... and finally Myers proving human when, trying to tie the score with a 50-yard field goal, missed solidly wide right, giving Miami the ball at its 40.
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7. Unhappy Return
Long's snapping problems with his injured finger continued when Darnold snared his high right snap, then threw off-balance with Miami rookie LB Jerome Baker snaring the throw and taking it 25 yards to the end zone for a 13-3 lead with 10:48 to play. It was the first IR TD by opponents since opening night at Detroit, the first by a linebacker since Derrick Johnson at Kansas City in 2016.
8. Chance to
With the Jets offense having a sense of urgency, they moved 37 yards to the Miami 38. Go for it or go back to Myers? Bowles chose to send Myers on for the 56-yarder and he drilled this one to cut the visitors' deficit to 13-6 with 5:57 to play. Then the defense put up its fifth 3-and-out series and third straight. And the Jets offense had another chance beginning at its 18 with 4:26 left.
9. Pick Three ... and Four
Enunwa provided a spark with a 23-yard dash after a bubble screen to the Jets 47. But two incompletions and a sack put the Jets in a bad 4th-and-15 hole. Bowles decided to go for it and Darnold, trying to slip a pass down the deep middle to Enunwa, instead found S T.J. McDonald with his third interception of the game just before the two-minute warning. The defense got the ball back for the offense but Darnold could lead the O only to his 47 before throwing his fourth pick of the game, this one by DB Walt Aikens.