Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker talks about his pick-six to help defeat the Jets
The Miami Dolphins are entitled to enjoy this because a win (any win) feels sweeter when it interrupts a skid of four losses in five games.
Dolfans get to be happy because it was the hated, stinkin’ New York Jets on the other end, their boorish fans turned blessedly quiet.
South Florida gets to feel good because Miami’s 13-6 home victory on Sunday puts a smile at the end of a sports weekend without many of those. I mean, the Hurricanes, Gators and Seminoles all lost in football, a rare trifecta of collegiate sadness. The Heat and Panthers are losing, the Marlins are still the Marlins and we’ve not had a lot go right in sports lately -- the Dolphins at the front of that, until Sunday’s welcome respite.
So enjoy this win for a minute without guilt. Don’t parse it with yeah-buts right away.
Don’t wait too long, though, to get to the reality part of all of this.
Because it wasn’t joy I heard or felt in the winning lockerroom at Hard Rock Stadium; it was relief. This was less a triumph than an escape.
This was a Sunday that didn’t have a rainbow arched over it as as much as a dark cloud. In reaction, in muted enthusiasm, it felt like a loss.
It was two things.
One, on a day when the recently beleaguered and embarrassed Miami defense absolutely dominated against Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, a controversy involving Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones was rising like stink.
Jones left the game late in the first half and did not return.
“It sounds like he pulled himself out [of the game],” said coach Adam Gase afterward.
Was it injury related? The head coach said he wasn’t sure but aimed to find out, a strong hint of discord in the air.
So on a day when the Fins’ defense had four interceptions (Jerome Baker’s returned for the game’s only touchdown), four sacks, seven QB hits and allowed the Jets only two of 13 third-down conversions, the controversy with Mr,. Jones at the center of it festered above all the good stuff.
And then there was this:
The Dolphins offense stunk -- to a degree that “stunk” might be offended by the comparison.
With seven points courtesy Baker’s pick-six and three more gifted by Kiko Alonso’s interception, Miami and QB Brock Osweiler produced three points on their own. They converted three of 16 third downs. They totaled 168 offensive yards and a microscopic 3.1 per play.
“Ah, shoot, you know, it was a just a hard-fought NFL football game,” said Osweiler. A good old-fashioned fight. It was fun.”
Fun? When nine of 11 Miami offensive series ended in punts?
“Yeah we won!” reasoned Osweiler.
The Dolphins and Jets, old AFC East rivals, have not been both good at the same time since 2001, the last season when each made the playoffs. Joe Namath attended Sunday’s game,. a reminder the Jets’ lone Super Bowl win dates to 1969. The Dolphins’ 1972-73 crowns are nearly as dusty.
Sunday’s rematch? It was framed in which team might be the least-bad.
That was Miami, thanks to Darnold’s rookie ineptness making the Dolphins D look masterful, and helping disguise how little Miami’s offense had to do with this game.
Moving forward, of course, the next two opposing quarterbacks will be Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck, not a befuddled rookie. Miami will require an offense that actually scores points in bunches, way beyond the meager 16 points it has averaged ever since that 3-0 start frittered away.
This was not a playoff-worthy performance from Miami Sunday because Darnold made it too easy and because the offense was a no-show.
Playoff hopes are barely hanging on with Osweiler, who is a career backup for reasons increasingly evident. Ryan Tannehill, still out with a shoulder injury, cannot return soon enough.
We can debate whether Tannehill is good enough -- we have been for seven years -- but there is no arguing he is a clear echelon above last year’s recycled Jay Cutler or this year’s break-glass-in-case-of-emergency Osweiler.
“I’m sure there’s things we could have done better,” Osweiler said. (Only an entire afternoon of them, Brock).
Osweiler hit a wide-open Danny Amendola for 26 yards on the game’s first play. It would be the best play of the day for his offense.
Injuries Sunday left Miami often playing with three offensive linemen who shouldn’t have been playing, trying to protect a QB who shouldn’t be, either. The featured back is the oldest running back in the NFL. The recycled Amendola has become the go-to receiver.
It’s a patchwork offense. It isn’t working. It desperately needs its quarterback back.
Sunday’s win hides that for a little bit, but doesn’t make it go away.