Exhale, Dolphins and know that you survived as much as won this one.
The terrible New York Jets, a team about to embark on a coaching search in a month, outplayed you for most of four quarters in front of a national TV audience. For much of this game, one team played with urgency as if it had something to play for.
The other team was the Dolphins.
And your fans, dear Dolphins, sweated and cursed for much of those four quarters ...
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... Until you pulled one out at the end.
Dolphins win 16-13.
Fine, not scintillating, but the Dolphins will take this.
They will not feel great about it, but that interception by Reshad Jones to seal the win still will feel like it was sent from heaven.
That play and just a handful others were good enough to beat a team in retreat. So, for this night it was acceptable for the Dolphins to deliver a performance replete with very sour notes.
“I feel sick,” New York coach Rex Ryan said. “We can’t buy a win.”
That is apparently accurate. But the Dolphins tried really hard to sell him one.
And that cannot continue. This kind of work next week against the Baltimore Ravens will get the Dolphins beat.
That, of course, would not be a problem for a team with a dim future. Inconsistency is fine when the bar is set low. But the Dolphins are currently the No.6 seed in the AFC.
They are on a playoff arc, which is great news. They have high expectations and aspirations.
Except that their playoff arc would hit a dead end with any more performances like this one.
So what is wrong?
The Dolphins officially have an issue stopping the run. They allowed 277 rushing yards against New York.
The Jets, mind you, are a team that cannot pass. When Geno Smith throws, bad things happen for his team.
And yet against a team that cannot throw, a team that cannot even threaten a consistent ability to bring its offense out of the 1960s, the Dolphins couldn’t stop the only other option.
Another issue is Miami’s inability to start games fast.
This game began as so many Dolphins games have a habit of doing: With coach Joe Philbin’s team in a coma.
The Jets had 131 rushing yards in the first quarter, and the Dolphins had 10.
In that regard the Miami defense picked up where it left off last week when it gave up 201 yards to Denver.
The problem is the Broncos came into that game saying they wanted to run but always were able to threaten a Peyton Manning pass if that run plan didn’t work. The Jets, the No.32-ranked pass offense, couldn’t threaten anything other than a solid running game.
The Dolphins knew this and still could not stop New York.
By halftime the Jets had churned 210 rushing yards. They held the football five minutes longer than the Dolphins. And, of course, they led 10-3.
That can happen against the hapless Jets without it costing a season-defining loss.
But squeaking out wins against the 2-10 Jets is not what Philbin expects of his team in December.
So things like this must stop:
▪ Mike Wallace dropping a touchdown pass.
▪ Caleb Sturgis missing a 43-yard field goal and in the second half when he makes one, he bounces the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving New York the football at its 40.
▪ Blowing coverages on third-and-5 and giving Smith a 20-yard gain.
▪ And, of course, the Dolphins also gave up a field goal immediately after closing the score to 10-6 with a field goal from Sturgis.
None of that is championship football. None of it is playoff-caliber football.