Nuggets and reaction from the Dolphins’ 34-13 win against the Jets at MetLife Stadium:
• Make it eight wins in nine games – a stretch that’s particularly remarkable not only because of the 1-4 start, but also because the Dolphins have played large chunks of this season without two of their six best players (Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey).
And so the Dolphins (9-5) need only one win (against Buffalo in New York, or home against New England) and two Denver losses to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Two Dolphins wins and one Denver loss also would do the trick.
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The Broncos have the NFL’s most difficult remaining schedule: New England on Sunday, at Kansas City on Christmas night on NBC and home against Oakland.
Miami enters Sunday in the sixth spot, one half game ahead of 8-5 Denver.
And get this: The Dolphins could clinch a playoff spot next weekend if Denver loses to the Patriots Sunday and loses to the Chiefs on Christmas night and Miami wins at the Bills on Saturday.
• This win ensured Steven Ross of his first winning season in eight years as majority owner.
• What a glorious first start in five years for Matt Moore, who passed for 236 yards (12 of 18), had a 126.1 passer rating and set a new career high with four touchdown passes today. He previously had five games with three touchdown passes, the most recent at New England on Dec. 24, 2011.
Moore: “I’m fired up. It feels great. It’s been a wild [week with his wife having a baby and replacing the injured Ryan Tannehill]. Proud of these guys, the way we worked this week and came out. Started slow tonight but kind of picked things up. Coach Gase said keep fighting. We got a big play on special teams [Walt Aikens’ punt block and TD] that helped us out. Jarvis’ touchdown was a nice relief.... Ryan was awesome [during the game] - what he sees from the sideline. Extremely helpful and that’s what I expected. That’s who he is.”
• The Dolphins really need to keep impending free agent Kenny Stills, whose speed not only has created seven touchdowns but also helps open up intermediate routes for others. Stills is tied for the sixth-most touchdown receptions in the NFL this season.
The 52-yard catch from Moore was Stills’ third touchdown of 50-plus yards, tying Odell Beckham for the NFL lead in that category. It’s also the most 50-plus yard TDs by a Dolphin in a season since Mark Duper 30 years ago.
It was his seventh TD of 20-plus yards this season; only Antonio Brown has more.
Stills entered fourth in the NFL in yards per catch, at 17.6, behind only Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan (no kidding) and DeSean Jackson.
• Walt Aikens’ blocked punt for a TD came at a critical point of the game, pushing Miami’s lead to 20-10 early in the third. It was the Dolphins’ first blocked punt for a TD since Olivier Vernon did it at the Jets in 2012. Aikens doesn’t have a defensive snap all season but continues to make huge plays on special teams.
• Cameron Wake, who had his first career pick, is the first Dolphins defensive lineman with a forced fumble (it came on a sack) and interception in the same game since 2006, when Jason Taylor did it twice -- at Chicago and vs. Minnesota.
Wake, making a bid for Comeback Player of the Year, now has 10.5 sacks. It’s the third time in the last five years that he has double digits in sacks; he probably would have reached that figure last year if he hadn’t been injured. Instead, he had seven in seven games last year.
What’s more, Wake has nine forced fumbles since the start of last season, most in the NFL. That’s amazing considering he has missed nine games since the start of last season.
• Dion Sims, meanwhile, is the first Dolphins tight end with two TD catches in a game since Charles Clay in 2013.
• With Jarvis Landry's 66-yard touchdown, Landry went over 1000 receiving yards for the second consecutive season. He is the first Dolphins player to have back-to-back 1000-yard seasons since Brian Hartline in 2012-13.
• Jay Ajayi had only 53 yards on 19 carries but became the 10th player in Dolphins history to ever rush for 1000 yards.
It’s the 14th time the Dolphins have produced a 1000-yard rusher. Miami's last 1,000-yard rusher was Lamar Miller, who ran for 1099 yards in 2014.
The Dolphins managed just 2.6 yards per carry.
• With Ajayi and Landry each gaining 1000 yards, it marks just the second time in Dolphins history that the team has had a 1,000-yard rusher and 1000-yard receiver in the same season. The other time was 2011 with Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall.
• With Byron Maxwell leaving early in the game (for good) with an ankle injury, Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett were uneven early but very good in the second half.
Lippett had two interceptions (including the final play of the game) and a splendid play in coverage on a 3rd and 6 against Brandon Marshall.
Howard also had a couple of very good plays in coverage, including one against Marshall.
Howard, Lippett, Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake --- in that order --- were Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated Dolphins players in this game.
• Not to be overlooked: Marqueis Gray’s recovery of Jay Ajayi’s fumble on Miami’s first play of the second half…Sacks by Neville Hewitt and Isa-Abdul Quddus on blitzes… A Kiko Alonso stop on a Bilal Powell run on a 4th and 1 after Adam Gase successfully challenged the spotting of the ball…. Gase was successful on both his challenge calls, with the first one resulting in a Dolphins TV pass to Sims that was originally ruled out of bounds.
• Not so good: Linebacker Jelani Jenkins came back from knee and hand injuries but wasn’t effective... The defensive line was pushed around too often in the running game, and the linebackers weren’t of much help. Powell ran for 84 yards on 16 carries (5.3 per carry), and the Jets averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt... The offensive line was sound in pass protection but didn’t create many holes in the running game, despite Kraig Urbik replacing Anthony Steen at center.... Andrew Franks missed his first PAT after opening the season 31 for 31. Only 11 teams haven’t missed an extra point.
• Receiver stats: Landry 3 for 108; Stills 1 for 52; Sims 4 for 31; Gray 3 for 28; Parker 1 for 17.
• Moore, Sims, Landry and Gray - in that order - were Miami’s highest-rated players on offense, per Pro Football Focus.
• Gase, afterwards: “I think [Moore] did a good job. His command. He took some shots, hit them. Missed a couple I know he wanted back. The run game isn’t exactly what we thought it was going to be. They did a good job causing some problems for us. We were a little bit off in the running game. [Moore] was great all week. It was interesting to see the roles switch between those two guys [Moore and Ryan Tannehill]. Matt all of a sudden became all serious and Ryan was joking around....
“The defense did a great job of turnovers, pressure was relentless. There are a couple things [defensive coordinator Vance Joseph] will want to clean up. I know Powell had a good day. We’ve got to get tighter on checkdowns and tackle a little quicker. The coverage was very tight [outside]....
“Looked like [Howard] was pretty good to me. Competitive, got his hands on balls. Looked like he never really left us. When Maxwell went out, first thing that went through my head is how many snaps is he going to get in this game. We were thinking he would get only 15.
“Cam has a knack for timing. It seems like he knows when there’s those moments if there’s something that can swing a game, he finds those moments and makes it happen. I’m watching him catch balls in warmups and wondering why he’s catching one in warmups. Then I see him pick one off. Maybe he knew something I didn’t.”
Here’s some news on Dion Jordan and my UM, Heat and Marlins nuggets from today... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz