It wasn't pretty, but the Miami Dolphins came away from New Meadowlands Stadium with a narrow 10-6 victory over the division-rival New York Jets in Week 13.
Quarterback Chad Henne completed just five passes for 55 yards as the offense never got going, but the defense was ferocious and never let Mark Sanchez get settled.
The Dolphins kept their playoffs hope alive with the win and are now 7-6, but they'll likely need to win out and get help from other teams to have any chance at the postseason.
Miami will face the Buffalo Bills (3-10) at Sun Life Stadium in Week 15, but until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Jets.
- There's no denying Chad Henne didn't have a good game. The Jets' defense played extremely well and the Dolphins were hardly ever able to move the ball. One grip I do have is with Dan Henning's constant use of the wildcat, which I feel ruins Henne's ability to get into a rhythm and lead the offense. The wildcat doesn't work anyway, and it just hinders Henne's performance. When watching the Dolphins, just remember that most NFL quarterbacks get three tries to get a first down. Henne often only gets two or one.
- Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams compiled a solid amount of hard-fought yards out on the ground, but the overall rushing performance was not impressive. Once again, the offensive line fails to help out the backs, in turn killing productivity. Williams is running better than Brown though, as Brown continues to dance way too much.
- How can you critique the receivers at all with only five completions? You can't. I'll credit Dan Henning for getting Brandon Marshall matched up on Bart Scott early in the game, which drew a pass interference penalty and led to a touchdown.
- Jeron Mastrud whiffed on pass protection that led to a sack, and Dedrick Epps was invisible in his NFL debut. The Dolphins are completely lacking an impactful No. 2 tight end.
- The offensive line was more of the same—Jake Long was good, and everyone else wasn't. The interior line struggled in run blocking as usual against a tough Jets front, and Lydon Murtha was pretty bad in pass protection filling in for Vernon Carey.
- There is no other way to say it—the Dolphins' defensive line was stellar this week. Paul Soliai, Kendall Langford and Tony McDaniel were all beasts, and Randy Starks played a great game too. They did everything they are asked to do, from controlling the line of scrimmage to putting pressure on the quarterback to stuffing the run. There is great depth here and it could be even better if Soliai and McDaniel re-sign and Jared Odrick returns in 2011.
- Koa Misi had a good game and Quentin Moses lucked into a fumble recovery, but Cameron Wake was the story at outside linebacker once again. He played well against the run all game, and then came through with two big sacks on the Jets' final drive to seal the victory for Miami. He leads the NFL in sacks with 14.
- Karlos Dansby and Channing Crowder couldn't have been much better, combining for 15 tackles while stuffing LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene all game. Dansby also added a sack and a forced fumble, and he's just the kind of guy that seems to make a play or two a game that most other NFL linebackers don't.
- The Dolphins' secondary had a great game as well. Vontae Davis made a beautiful play while being interfered constantly by Braylon Edwards. Sean Smith probably had 10 pass deflections, while Benny Sapp did a good job in the slot and Nolan Carroll got his first career interception. Smith's constant dropping of easy interceptions is concerning, but I have a feeling they will come and I'm just glad he's in position to make those kinds of plays so often. His coverage has been excellent lately.
- Dan Carpenter drilled a 47-yarder on his only field goal attempt, but the real story on special teams was Brandon Fields. In a game where field position was huge, Fields averaged 56.4 yards on 10 punts, with a long of 68 yards. It was an absolutely incredible performance and was vital to the Dolphins' win.
- Nolan Carroll seems close to breaking one on kick returns, and I like the job he's doing. Obviously, his name was in the news this week not as a cornerback or returner, but as a flyer on the punting unit. The Jets' assistant that tripped him was blatantly wrong for doing so, and got an adequate punishment with a fine and suspension without pay. It's worth noting though, that Carroll was actually committing a penalty by running downfield out of bounds instead of returning to the field after being pushed out. That doesn't excuse the coach's behavior, but just saying. Hear more about what I thought on this controversy here.
- Reshad Jones was actually flagged by the official for the same infraction Carroll got away with, but he more than made up for it when a few huge special teams tackles. He even got pushed in the back on one play and still made a great play on the returner.
That was about as ugly a win a I've seen, but I'll take it. You have to love the way the defense is playing, and they are clearly one of the best units in the NFL right now. The holes in their game are being filled not by new faces, but by improved play. Mike Nolan deserves all the credit for turning the unit around, and hopefully Miami is able to retain him beyond this season. It wouldn't surprise me if he got some head coaching interest.
On the offensive side of the ball, however, there is little to be excited about. Chad Henne isn't playing well, the Dolphins can't run the ball and Dan Henning continues to show he's more suited for a retirement home than a coaching booth.
I think ultimately the offense will do the team in and kill the Dolphins' slim playoff hopes. They should win against Buffalo and Detroit, but they have no margin for error and are prone to losing to inferior teams. 10-6 would be great but it's unlikely with the Patriots in the finale, while 9-7 would be a solid finish worthy of some optimism in 2011.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
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