It could have been one of those dreary season-closing affairs, the Jets out of the playoffs, fighting an old rival that needed to win to stay in the postseason hunt, with rumors swirling about the head coach.
But the Green & White were having none of it. QB Geno Smith, playing miles from his childhood home in Miramar, FL, came alive in the second quarter, the defense sat on Miami's running game and Dee Milliner and the secondary stayed a step ahead of Ryan Tannehill and the offense, and the Jets made good on their weekly message to finish strong and show improvement as they downed the Dolphins, 20-7, and bounced the 'Fins out of the playoffs.
The win gave us our long-awaited first two-game winning streak of the season and raised our record to 8-8 to finish with a .500-or-better record for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Rex Ryan. It avenged the 23-3 home loss to Miami at the start of December.
It also was payback of a sort as the Jets, who were out of contention before the '08 season finale and needed to win and get help to make the playoffs in '11, lost twice against the Dolphins and missed the postseason party.
The Jets' passer rating, was more than double that of Miami's (88.4 to 42.1), we compiled 62 more rushing yards (154 to 92), and our defense created three turnovers (all interceptions) while our offense protected the football with zero giveaways.
After the game, Chairman & CEO Woody Johnson announced that head coach Rex Ryan *will *be back for the 2014 season.
"To have them play this well, this late in the season and ascending each week," Johnson said, "not losing focus or concentration but performing well, I think is an amazing tribute to Rex and his coaching staff."
"Mr. Johnson and [GM] John [Idzik] told me before the game," Ryan said. "I don't know if it disappointed everybody or whatever, but certainly it was good. I'll say this, I love being the head coach of the New York Jets, plain and simple."
"I was in here chanting 'We want Rex, we want Rex,'" CB Ellis Lankster said. "And after Mr. Johnson made his announcement, I changed it to 'We got Rex, we got Rex.'"
Pulling Away for the W
We maintained our touchdown advantage even as the Aqua & Coral advanced 61 yards on 10 plays to the Jets 29 in the third quarter. But on second down Milliner deflected a Tannehill go-route for Mike Wallace in the end zone, then on third down Milliner dived in front of Wallace with a nifty interception at his 11. It was his second pick of the season with both coming in the past two games.
However, we wasted a long drive of our own from there, all the way to the Miami 18 before Nick Folk's first field goal try of the game was ruled just outside the right upright and thus his kick was no good. It was still 14-7 with 12:46 to play.
But the defense held once more, and so Smith and the offense moved 63 yards on their next possession, stalling at the exact same place as the last time. Folk came out to again try a 35-yard field goal from the right hashmark toward the same end zone. This time he banged it through, lifting the Jets to a two-possession lead at 17-7.
Then for good measure, following Ed Reed's third INT in the last four games, Folk put through a 26-yarder with 2:59 left to make it 20-7 and to make him 33-for-36 for the season, a 91.7% accuracy that is the franchise record for a season of field goal kicking.
And Milliner added his second pick of the game to ice the victory and making him our first two-INT player in a game since Darrelle Revis picked the Dolphins twice on Oct. 17, 2011. He also had 5 PDs (unofficially) for the second consecutive game.
"It feels great," Milliner said, "finally catching onto things, doing what I'm supposed to do."
Awakening in the First Half
The longtime rivals traded two punts each on the game's first four possessions. At the end of the first quarter, the Dolphins were on the move, past midfield to the Jets' 40, then their 30, then inside the 10.
The drive ended with Tannehill finding Mike Wallace in the back of the end zone past Milliner for the 5-yard score with 11:51 to play in the first half.
Miami's next possession was the defense's first 3-and-out but required Tannehill to overthrow Wallace, who had put a double move on Milliner and had two steps on the rookie corner.
With that, Geno and the offense finally got in gear, moving 71 yards to Sheldon Richardson's 1-yard touchdown run to tie it at 7-7. Smith on the drive was 5-for-5 passing and had two carries for 9 yards to that first-and-goal at the 1.
Thus the Jets, who had gone 53 seasons and 13 games without a defensive lineman scoring an offensive touchdown, now have two by Richardson in their last three games. And Sheldon now has three pro carries for three yards and two scores.
Another 3-and-out by our defense and the offense was back again, marching from their 40 down toward the 'Fins goal line past the two-minute warning. Finally on third-and-goal, Smith kept one more time and this time pinballed his way all the way into the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
It was Geno's sixth rushing TD of the season but his first on the road. And it gave us our first first-half lead over Miami in our last four meetings.
"I think that in the second quarter we really kind of started to take over the game," Smith said. "We put together some really good extended drives. We converted on some third downs and overall I think we just got better as the game went along."
With the visitors getting the kickoff to start the second half, things were looking pretty bright with 30 minutes to play in South Florida.