The Jets' active roster for Miami was looking as bleak as forecast due to injuries in the secondary. Safety and defensive leader Jamal Adams was out with the ankle injury that hindered him last week at Cincinnati. Nickel back Brian Poole was sidelined with a concussion. Arthur Maulet, who made four starts, was out with a calf injury. Matthias Farley was also inactive with injury.
But when we say bleak, we mean from the outside. Inside the Jets' locker room, inside the defensive huddle, it was: No Jamal? No Poole? No problem. Next man up. And with that formula the Green & White posted a 22-21 victory over their long-time AFL/AFC East rivals.
"Nah, never a doubt," said safety Marcus Maye, the only member of the Jets secondary who started at the same position on opening day that he started at against the Dolphins, playing alongside Darryl Roberts filling in for Adams this day. " The way we prepare, the way we practice during the week, there's never a doubt when we step on the field."
"Zero doubts," rookie CB Bless Austin added after his fourth start as a pro. "We all trust each other, we all prepare the same way from our coaching staff. So when we go out there with each other, we know the job that's got to get done."
See Best Images from the Matchup Against the Dolphins
Today's job was to beat back QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins, who toppled the Jets at Miami five weeks earlier. In general, that was a success. The Jets allowed Fitz and the 'Fins a fair amount of Meadowlands real estate, 362 yards in all, with Fitzpatrick adding a 'Fins-leading 65 scramble yards on eight carries to his 245 passing yards.
And the reason that yardage didn't hurt the Jets as much as it could have was that the Next Men Up played Bend Don't Break.
"We did a good job," Maye said of the Jets' red zone defense, which held Miami and K Jason Sanders to five field goals and one miss in six RZ trips. "There were those few times we could've got off the field, but as far as red zone defense, I felt like once we got down there, we bowed up and didn't let them get in."
"We did the same work we did every week," Austin said. "It's just the attitude you've got to have. You've got to be ready to make the play."
Time and again, the Jets made the stops. Here they are by the Dolphins' trips inside the Jets 20:
Third-and-10 at the 10 — LB James Burgess tackles Fitzpatrick after a 6-yard scramble. Sanders kicks his first FG.
Third-and-4 at the 6 — Fitzpatrick incompletion for TE Mike Gesicki, with help from a Henry Anderson QB hit. Sanders kicks his second FG.
Third-and-4 at the 10 — Fitz again incomplete for Gesicki. Sanders again.
Third-and-13 at the 13 — Fitzpatrick incomplete for WR Allen Hurns. Sanders FG No. 4.
Third-and-3 at the 16 — Fitzpatrick pass for RB Myles Gaskin broken up by Burgess. Sanders miss from 34 yards.
Third-and-15 at the 20 — Needing to prevent a first down, the Jets stopped RB Patrick Laird, once by Burgess and once by LB Tarell Basham, sandwiched around a Fitz sack by Jordan Jenkins. Sanders' final FG makes it 21-19, Miami, with 1:33 to play.
"We knew we could do it," said CB Nate Hairston, who contributed the Jets' only takeaway on an interception of Fitzpatrick to set up a Sam Ficken field goal. "It's the NFL. Everybody's held to the same standard, everybody can play, we're all in the league. So when it's your opportunity, you just step up to the plate and do what's asked of you."
And if you can't step up, you pitch on on the sideline. Burgess' name shows up a lot in the above listing and he finished with a game-high 13 tackles. But he said in addition to his communicating tips and such from "G-Dub" — coordinator Gregg Williams — to the Jets' younger players to keep everyone on the same page, he and the group also got a lot of help from No. 33. Yes, Jamal Adams.
"Jamal, he's a different dude," Burgess said. "Somebody like that is definitely an impact player. But we always had a next-man-up mentality. We couldn't do anything about it, we wish we could've had him, but he was a great coach on the sideline. He was talking the whole time, he was into it the whole time. It was different, but next man up."