This unusual season ended with an unusual final score of 11-6 today in Miami as the Dolphins defeated the Jets. The result unfortunately was anything but unusual. The Jets end a once promising 2022 season with a six game losing streak.
The stakes in this game were quite small for the Jets. The other NFL action from the afternoon meant that the outcome would have no impact on the team’s Draft positioning. The final result would simply help shape the narrative of 2022 at least in the first few days of the offseason. A win might have calmed some of the anger this losing streak has brought and allowed fans to focus on some of the genuine progress that has been made this year. The defeat ends the season on a most bitter note and will likely raise the desire for firings as we move into Black Monday.
The game itself was surprisingly entertaining, far moreso than many of us expected a Joe Flacco vs. Sklyar Thompson showdown to be.
It was preordained that such a game would be low scoring.
How did Miami emerge victorious? I would argue the Jets’ game plan played a role. I understand what the Jets were trying to do. I’m just not sure I agree with the approach.
The coaching staff clearly was looking to play a very conservative game on both sides of the ball.
On defense this meant an abundance of two deep safety looks. With Thompson under center, the coaches clearly calculated that Miami would struggle to sustain lengthy drives. The greatest danger to the Jets would be a big play by one of the Dolphins’ explosive receivers so they did everything in their power to limit that possibility.
This approach left the Jets vulnerable to the run, but Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich likely believed Mike McDaniel would eventually get impatient running it over and over and eventually try to throw the ball. That was exactly the case as the Dolphins short circuited a couple of promising drives on the ground by attempting to air it out after they crossed midfield.
The Jets’ defense is incorrectly described as a “bend but don’t break” philosophy. That might have been true last year, but it didn’t really accurately describe the 2022 Jets defense. In fact the Jets allowed the second fewest yards per drive in the league entering this week. Their approach broke offenses.
This week was an exception. The Jets did go to a bend but don’t break mindset. They were happy to concede nice gains on the ground as long as they prevented big plays from turning into touchdowns. In a way it worked. The defense surrendered three field goals.
The offensive approach complemented the game plan from the other side of the ball. Understandably believing it would be a low scoring game, the Jets made great strides to try to avoid mistakes. Their approach on offense was very conservative. The coaching staff seemed to believe that the game would likely come down to a turnover. The offense would also be limited by Joe Flacco under center and three backup offensive linemen starting. Why not play to avoid the big mistake?
There are a couple of reasons. First, on the defensive side the Jets invested a ton at the cornerback position and did so quite successfully. This team is built to handle dynamic receivers without dedicating extra resources to them. The three new offensive linemen also meant the Jets would have a difficult time running successfully. Indeed once they adjusted and opened up the offense in the second half after falling behind 6-3 the offense showed more life. The Jets discovered targeting Garrett Wilson was a good thing, and Joe Flacco got into a rhythm (or at least as much of a rhythm as Flacco is capable of getting into at this point of his career).
While there were elements of complementary football meshed between the offensive and defensive game plans, these also left the Jets minimal room for error. A defensive approach that conceded successful runs to Miami combined with a run heavy approach on offense with a line that couldn’t run block meant the Jets would have to play with a territorial disadvantage. The Dolphins would put up more yardage, have the ball for more time, and win the field position battle.
Just as significantly, this type of approach all but guaranteed a game that would go down to the last minute. If the Jets had based more of their game plan on Wilson, perhaps they could have built a lead. Instead they were in an affair that went down to the wire. Every team has to play games like this. When you put yourself into a nail biter by design, you stand the risk of one suspect call tipping the balance as happened on a critical borderline horse collar call on Quincy Williams, which helped the Dolphins on their way to the game winning field goal as much as anything.
Thus ends the season. By most accounts the Jets either met or even surpassed expectations. Most fans would have signed up for seven wins at the start of the season. The Jets reached their stated goal of playing meaningful December football. Yet a six game losing streak makes it feel a bit empty.
How should we remember the 2022 Jets. Were they successful because they reached the goals? Were they a failure because of how they ended things?
I think it’s possible they were both. We will have a full offseason to break all of this down and so much more. For now let me say thank you for stopping by this season. We won’t stop talking about the Jets this offseason. I look forward to chatting with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead.