EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The Dolphins killed the Jets on Sunday.
No, it wasn’t a shooting or stabbing or other act associated with violence that sends a perpetrator on the road to trouble with the law.
This was the kind of act that ends seasons, not lives. It’s the kind of stuff that breaks confidence, not bones. It’s the kind of act that sends men to the bench, or the unemployment line rather than jail.
The Dolphins did all of that to the Jets.
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The Dolphins season is still alive.
The Jets season is pretty much dead.
And around this country, particularly in South Florida, Dolphins fans laugh a diabolical laugh because, although this game does not guarantee the Dolphins will make the playoffs or even play well next week, it does accomplish one gleeful feat that warms the heart for those who bleed aqua and orange:
It really, really hurts the hated Jets.
“I feel bad obviously for us,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said after he took the pulse of his fading team, “but I feel bad for our fans, especially the ones that were here in the stadium. They deserved better than that. It was an awful performance by us.
“We got outplayed in all three phases of the game.”
When was the last time the Dolphins made an opposing coach say that? Not this season. Maybe not for a while.
But this game was that performance. This was a dismantling.
And it was so complete that by the time it was over, the Dolphins had played a role in the benching of not one but two Jets 2013 early-round draft picks. Both quarterback Geno Smith and cornerback Dee Milliner were benched by Ryan — an act designed to save them from further embarrassment.
The Dolphins defense, which earlier this season struggled against Buffalo’s third-string quarterback, made Smith look like he spent the week playing Madden instead of preparing to play a professional game.
Smith completed 4 of 10 passes for 29 yards. He was intercepted once. He was sacked another time when he held the football too long. His quarterback rating for the game was 8.3
“When you can get to the quarterback, it is always a positive thing,” said Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, “and when you can get him rattled to where he will throw an interception it’s even greater.”
That’s got to sting.
The Dolphins had a choke hold on Smith in the first half and when Ryan went to the bullpen in search of a miracle, the Dolphins put a similar tight grip around the new guy’s throat.
Matt Simms came into this game with the pedigree of his father Phil Simms, who had won a lot of games in the old Giants Stadium. He had gotten solid reviews from Jets insiders about his practice habits and abilities. The new guy was greeted with cheers and gave his team hope.
And the Dolphins swatted away all that optimism, limiting Simms to nine completions on 18 attempts for 79 yards. They sacked Simms three times, and Brent Grimes intercepted him in the end zone.
Most importantly, the Dolphins kept the Jets out of the end zone in the second half, just as they had in the first.
Miami’s mistreatment of young Simms leaves Ryan grasping for answers the remainder of the season. He is considering handing the offense over to veteran David Garrard, who hasn’t played in a game since 2010.
“That could be a possibility,” Ryan said.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, come away from this game with a formula for success. The word offensive players used most afterward was “balance.”
Ryan Tannehill threw for 331 yards and the team rushed for 125 yards. That’s a hard combination to stop.
“If we have balance offensively like we did today, we’re pretty good,” offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. “If they can just pin their ears back and rush the passer or if they only have to play the run, it makes things easier for them. You have to make them do both and it helps us a lot.
“We committed to it. Coach [Mike] Sherman kept calling it. We just kept coming out of the huddle and coming off the ball. We had some negative runs, we knew we would, they’re a good team. But we weren’t going to let one or two bad ones keep us from calling it.”
The offensive line that has been the epicenter of troubles this year — on and off the field — was the foundation of solid play Sunday. Center Mike Pouncey did a good job of calling the right blocking schemes against a defensive front that tries to confuse. There was really only one breakdown in 43 passing plays.
The Dolphins also come away from this game with great confidence. Consider that the first half was as much a blowout as the first — except for the points. The Dolphins had 16 first downs to New York’s two and 265 yards to New York’s 39.
But the Dolphins were still playing nothing like a playoff-caliber team. Brian Hartline said there was “an annoyance” among players because they had failed to deliver points to punctuate all those yards.
But a 31-yard touchdown by Hartline and a 28-yarder on a screen to Mike Wallace served as exclamation points.
And so afterward, the Dolphins continued to talk about December’s grand possibilities and what happen beyond that.
“We came into this game thinking playoffs, it’s a playoff game,” said defensive end Olivier Vernon. “We treated it as a playoff game, fought hard, and look at the result, we got the ‘W.’ Everybody in here felt like our backs were against the wall. We know what type of team we are and we had to keep fighting.
“We’re still alive.”
Not so much.