One of the Jets' young stars of offense in Sunday's 40-17 win over Miami wrapped the team's second-straight victory into a tidy little historical knot.
"We're not the old Jets," rookie running back Breece Hall said at MetLife Stadium after the game. "We're the Jets now, becoming a winning team."
Even as Hall (97 rush yards, 100 receiving yards, 1 TD) helped to power the offense to its most points since early in the 2018 season, it was the Jets' (3-2) tenacious and opportunistic defense -- particularly in the fourth quarter -- that helped send the Green & White to a victory in the AFC East for the first time in the past 13 games.
"It's like a ladder, we got to keep going and keep going up," said defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who found himself in the unfamiliar spot of running with the football after a fumble recovery.
"Even when we were up like 9 or 10 in the fourth, it's just like basically put your foot on the neck," said cornerback D.J. Reed. "Like literally just just keep going to see the blood in the water. You got to finish it and we wanted to play like the whole game out regardless of what the score was. So hopefully, that's what we want to continue to do."
Though rookie Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner was the focus of justifiable early raves after forcing Miami's backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into an intentional grounding penalty for a safety on the Dolphins' first offensive play and later came up with his first NFL interception (from a pass deflected by the rampant John Franklin-Myers, who a half-sack, 5 QB hits in the game and one pass defensed), what first appeared to be a potential blowout for the Jets turned, and turned quickly.
See the best images from the 40-17 victory over the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.
After leading by 19-7 late in the first half, the Fins "lapped," in a word used by Jets HC Robert Saleh, when they scored 10 unanswered points to close out and then open the second half, pulling within 2 points, 19-17.
But when Jason Sanders missed a potential go-ahead field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter, Jets' second-year QB Zach Wilson took his team on a 7-play, 56-yard scoring drive that culminated with Michael Carter scoring from a yard out (he had 2 TDs in the game).
It was then, the defense took over.
"When the fourth quarter turned, it felt like we went up a notch," Saleh said. "The offense finished drives, turning turnovers into points and the defense keeping them out of the end zone. It was an emphatic finish. It's something I feel we've been doing since the preseason. I know they don't count, but the mindset counts. I'm really pumped for the group and hope this is one of many."
On the second play after the TD, DE Carl Lawson stripped the ball from Miami's third-string QB Skylar Thompson at the Dolphins' 17-yard line. Williams swooped in, picked up the ball, unleashed a Derrick Henry-esque stiff-arm on a would-be tackler and rumbled 12 yards with the fumble to the 5-yard line. Hall scored on the next play. 33-17.
"It felt good," Williams said. "I've never practiced running the ball. I never had a chance to run the ball like that. So I just tried to do the best I can do for the team."
He added: "You can see the hard work that we've put in. You can see the guys that Joe Douglas and everybody else brought in, the communication and skill that we have and the different things that we do up front and in the defense. We showed we can be a serious defense."
The defense had one more play up its sleeve -- on fourth-and-1 from Miami's 34 with 7:36 to play, linebacker Kwon Alexander (10 total tackles, 6 solo) upended Raheem Mostert for a 4-yard loss to basically seal the victory
"I think it was a statement game," Reed said, "just with how we finished like we really didn't care about the score. We wanted to showcase what we could do. Offense, defense and special teams. It definitely is a confidence booster, two wins in a row."