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Dolphins 31 Jets 24: Second Half Domination

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Jets lost again today, falling to the Miami Dolphins 31-24 in South Florida. With the loss, they fall to 3-11 on the season.

I feel like the current Jets team almost needs to sneak up on its opponent to get a win. They need the other team to be overconfident and sleepwalk in the early stages of the game. The Jets also need to come out ready to play.

That’s what happened today, and it put the Jets on the verge of an early knockout blow. They jumped all over the Dolphins in the early stages of the game. The defense got a pair of quick three and outs sandwiching an interception on Miami's first three possessions.

The offense also came out firing on all cylinders. Mike LaFleur’s early game script was brilliant. The team manufactured successful play after successful play, marching down the field in 10 plays for an early touchdown.

An Ashtyn Davis interception put the Jets in business, and they almost jumped out to a two touchdown lead if not for an underthrown pass by Keelan Cole on a gadget play to an open Zach Wilson.

The Dolphins were reeling in the early stages of the game. The Jets had opportunities to deliver an early knockout blow. One came on a dropped interception by Davis that would have been his second and set the Jets up in Miami territory up 10-0. Another came about halfway through the second quarter. The Jets led 17-7, and a defensive stop would have set up the offense to deliver a decisive blow before the half. Instead the Dolphins put together a 14 play field goal drive. After the Jets dominated the first quarter and a half, they went to the locker room only up a score.

Watching the game and knowing the respective talent levels of the teams, it seemed like Miami would have a great chance to win if they weathered the initial storm. They did just that, and the second half was complete domination.

The Jets offense was held to 54 yards and three first downs in the entire second half. The Dolphins ran the ball at will. The Jets’ defense allowed Duke Johnson to go for over 100 yards in the contest and Miami to run for 184 yards. The Dolphins began the second half with a pair of long touchdown drives to begin the second half, taking their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter on a one yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to defensive lineman Christian Wilkins who had lined up in the backfield.

From that point, it seemed like the game was likely over. The Jets, however, stayed in the game, largely due to unforced errors by Miami. There was an ill-advised fake punt which gave the Jets the ball in Miami territory down 7 with just over 10:00 left in the fourth quarter. The Jets did nothing with that opportunity, but a poor throw and a great break by Brandin Echols on the next series resulted in a game-tying pick six.

The hopes generated from the play did not last long as the Jets promptly allowed Miami to march down the field in nine plays for a go ahead touchdown as Tagovailoa hit Devante Parker for an 11 yard touchdown against Bryce Hall to take the lead for good.

The Jets offense failed to score again, and Miami had the victory.

This game was more of the same for the defense. After standing tall early in the game, the unit melted in the second half. One gets the feeling this game would have been a lot worse had the Dolphins kept running it on the overmatched defense rather than entrusting the erratic Tagovailoa so frequently.

The second half offense was every bit as bad as the defense. This truly was a team loss.

Who were the culprits on offense? Well, everybody. The Jets were playing shorthanded both on the offensive line and wide receiver. That surely contributed to the problems. So did the poor play of guys the Jets thought would be good depth players heading into the season like Keelan Cole and Denzel Mims.

The Jets didn’t get enough playmaking from their skill players, and they were pushed around up front.

That brings us to the quarterback. What do we make of this performance by Zach Wilson?

This wasn’t the catastrophe of a week ago. Wilson played a solid first half and even showed flashes of playmaking ability that we saw so often at BYU and have seen so infrequently in year one in the NFL.

Then the second half came. I’m not sure Wilson was THE problem. There were all sorts of protection glitches and receiver failures. That said, Wilson also wasn’t the solution. He again struggled to navigate the pocket, and a fumble was likely due to him holding the ball for too long. In a vacuum this might not have been a particularly discouraging performance, but in the context of a disappointing rookie season, I didn’t see enough to renew my hope that maybe Zach is putting the pieces together. Even his flashes of competent play seem to be short-lived and unspectacular. Wilson has now played nine games from start to finish, and I don’t think you can say he has put together a full sixty consecutive minutes of quality football.

Three games are left in the season. The Jets have Jacksonville next week followed by Tampa Bay and Buffalo to finish the season. At 3-11, it is difficult to see what progress has been made in 2021. This season was never about making the Playoffs or even having a winning record. It was about building something. At this point I don’t think anything has been built. The Jets seem just as bad as ever.