It has been a recent habit for the New York Jets when they visit South Florida that they try to take over as if they own this place.
Their fans try to take over the best seats in the stadium.
Their talented defensive front tries to take over the line of scrimmage.
This year their best wide receiver tried to get in the game officials’ heads days before the first snap by talking about how Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell holds on every play.
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So, yes, the Jets try take turf the Dolphins want for themselves.
And if you understand that New York came into Sunday’s game having beaten the Dolphins in their house every year since 2011, you might have to agree the Jets had been pretty successful at getting their way.
But something changed during the pregame warmups of Sunday’s game between the teams as the Jets tried to continue marking territory at Hard Rock Stadium.
There was Marshall, who owned the Dolphins secondary to the tune of 15 catches for 259 yards and two touchdowns last season, preening like a rooster and talking to anyone who would listen about what was about to go down — all of this apparently on the Dolphins side of the field.
And that’s when some Miami players — the right ones, in fact, because it was the defensive backs — decided this must stop. So cornerback Bobby McCain and other defensive backs rose up to meet Marshall.
“Pregame, some things were said, some things were done,” McCain said. “We weren’t having it as a DB group. So we stepped up to the plate, and we told him it was going to be a long day over there, and that’s what happened.”
Said Michael Thomas: “I don’t know what he was trying to do, but he had to know he wasn’t going to get nowhere with us.”
Marshall, by the way, is a grown man. He’s big. He’s tough. And he’s not easily deterred.
So what started before kickoff continued during the game as he trash-talked practically the whole day while Maxwell followed him all over the field except the couple of times Marshall lined up in the slot.
When it was over Marshall trashed Maxwell some more.
“He was exactly who I thought he was,” Marshall said of Maxwell. “He’s a holder. He’s a grabber. That’s not how you play football. A lot of those calls put us in very good position and moved us down the field. The guys around him rallied because he could have really hurt his team today.”
And you know how all this worked out for Marshall and the Jets?
“When you’re talking about trying to change the culture that was here, this is the kind of game that the Dolphins as an organization, we haven’t won,” Thomas said. “We hadn’t won against the Jets at home since when? 2011?
“When you’re talking about changing the culture, you have to measure it by milestones, and this was one. We have to continue to work and understand there are a whole bunch of milestones more for us, and we have to try to cross them.”
As milestones go, beating a team that hasn’t won a championship since before the Dolphins did in the 1970s doesn’t seem like a high bar. But it’s significant for these Dolphins because it means more than simply winning at home against a nemesis.
This is the second divisional game the Dolphins won this season. They won once within the AFC East last season.
This is the third game in a row the Dolphins offense was the dominant unit at the line of scrimmage. And that’s kind of important because if the Dolphins don’t win there, they don’t win, as coach Adam Gase noted.
“We think we’re a physical team,” running back Jay Ajayi said. “What those guys do up front sets the tone. And my running style running downhill, we’re starting to showcase what we do.”
The impressive part is the Dolphins won up front against a defense that was No. 1 in the league against the run. Miami rushed for 137 yards against a team that allows an average of 74 yards per game. Ajay didn’t rush for 200 yards for the third consecutive game, but he did finish with 111, which is darn good.
So that line of scrimmage the Jets wanted to take away from the Miami offense?
It belonged to the Dolphins.
“You could tell they were determined to make sure 200 yards was not going to occur [Sunday], and you could tell that was their focus,” Ajayi said. “We just tried to stay on course and stay focused. We were just trying to win the game because 200 yards, that doesn’t really matter if you don’t win.”
Judging success solely on wins was a common standard in the Dolphins locker room Sunday. Marshall, for example had six catches for 45 yards and drew two penalties, but it was Maxwell who looked like the day’s winner.
“He talks all he wants,” Maxwell said. “He’s really just blowing hot air. Whatever, though. I was looking at him like, whatever. I guess he thinks he’s going to intimidate somebody by talking or something.
“I said something, but I don’t really talk on the field. I really don’t. I’m more about doing. This team is more about doing and you saw the results [Sunday].”