Last season the Miami Dolphins took two games from the Jets in heartbreaking fashion, but this year Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is primed to return the favor.
The Dolphins beat the Jets twice by a total of eight points, with the Jets holding second-half leads in both games. In fact, the Jets led with five minutes to play in the primetime game at Miami but couldn't hold on. As they prepare to travel to their divisional foes again for a Sunday night showdown, Sanchez is ready for a battle.
"They're a big-time divisional opponent, a rival, in their first game at home," Sanchez said. "There's plenty going on for this to be an exciting game so we're thrilled about that opportunity. I think they're a tough team, their defense looks great on film and they played Minnesota really well on the road. So they're excited to open up their season at home and it's our job to go down there and play mistake-free and take care of the football."
In the two games last season, Sanchez went 12-for-24 for 172 yards and a touchdown at Miami, then 20-for-35 for 265 yards and two TDs at home in games that were only three weeks apart. The Jets were 3-1 in 2009 when they traveled to Miami for a Monday night matchup but lost, 31-27, when the Dolphins' Ronnie Brown scored on a 2-yard TD run with six seconds left. Now that Sanchez has dealt with a high-profile road test in Miami, he's fully prepared for a rematch.
"It's a great place to play, it's always great weather," he said. "So we're going to hydrate all week to avoid cramps and stuff like that for all the skill guys. That's an important thing we've talked about. I just know that we're playing against a great opponent. Ball security is of the utmost importance. No self-inflicted wounds and we'll have a chance."
Miami enters at 2-0, having allowed only 10 points in each of its two victories, including Sunday's 14-10 win over the Vikings, last season's NFC Championship Game participant. Quarterback Chad Henne has completed 61 percent of his passes and Brown is averaging 5.6 yards per carry this year. In addition, newly acquired Brandon Marshall is the team's leading receiver and will be a challenge for the Jets defense.
Sanchez, however, is more worried about linebacker Channing Crowder and the Dolphins defense.
"I think their new defensive scheme suits them pretty well," the quarterback said. "I think Vontae Davis is playing unbelievably well. He's become a great corner in just his second year. We'll expect guys to be back like Crowder [groin], from injury, and he'll be ready to play and bring his emotion and energy. He's a solid football player so we expect him to play well."
Head coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday that wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who made his Jets debut in last year's Monday night game, will not start this time against the Dolphins, and cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker Calvin Pace have been declared out with injuries. As a result, it will be up to Green & White contributors such as Sanchez to step up. That all starts with practice, which the QB said was humming at a high level on Wednesday.
"I thought we had great tempo at practice," he said. "I thought guys looked sharp, excited, into the game plan, and I'm feeling comfortable with it already and that's a good sign. So we're thrilled about the opportunity."
If the Jets can move to 2-1, they'll be tied with the Dolphins and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker early in the season, while also moving to 2-0 in the AFC East. That would match the number of wins the Jets had in the division all last season and give them a fantastic start on trying to win the division. In fact, no team has won any of the 64 division titles since 2002 with less than a 3-3 record.
"They're a tough team," Sanchez said. "They did a great job against us last year and there's nothing else we can say except they beat us. It's a new year, we wanted to start off the right way. We did that in the division last week by beating the Patriots. Now we need to move on and hopefully do the same this week."