AFC East: 2013 Week 13 MIA at NYJ

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 13

December, 2, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 23-3 loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins:

1. Triple option at quarterback: Unless they switch to the single wing, the Jets will have to name a starting quarterback for Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders. Rex Ryan will consider all three quarterbacks -- the slumping Geno Smith, the unproven Matt Simms and the ancient David Garrard. It's a no-win selection. Smith, in a serious funk, needs a timeout. He needs to watch a week or two from the sideline, perhaps gathering himself for another shot at the end of the season. Simms isn't ready, but at least he has a live arm and young legs. Garrard, 35, is a grizzled vet, but he has a bad knee and hasn't played since 2010. He'd be a sitting duck in the pocket. My prediction is that Ryan will go with Simms, although he's been known to bypass the No. 2 in this type of situation. Does Tim Tebow/Greg McElroy ring a bell?

2. Blowouts are bad: The Jets' 5-7 record isn't troubling; after all, we all expected this to be a rebuilding year. It's how they're losing that sends up a red flag. A 20-point loss to the offensively challenged Dolphins at home? There's no alibi. The Jets' last four losses (in order) were by 40, 23, 16 and 20 points. Earlier, they lost by 25 points to the Tennessee Titans. The Jets have a minus-121 point differential, which is staggering. The only team with a worse differential is the Jacksonville Jaguars (minus-178). This league is built on parity, and there's no excuse for being noncompetitive in so many games. Yes, there's a talent gap between the Jets and probably half the league, but coaching and effort can narrow the gap. We haven't seen that from the Jets in a month.

3. The Ed Reed jinx: The decision to sign Ed Reed hasn't exactly paid huge dividends. The Jets are 0-3 since Reed's arrival (he's a combined 0-11 with the Jets and Houston Texans) and their pass defense has gone south with him at safety. With the future Hall of Famer in the secondary, opposing quarterbacks have completed 67 percent of their attempts for 849 yards, five touchdowns (all over 27 yards) and only two interceptions. It's unfair to blame it all on Reed, as cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie have contributed to the mess, but the nine-time Pro Bowler has made no impact. In fact, he missed a tackle on Brian Hartline's 31-yard touchdown. Showing no accountability, Reed dodged reporters after the game.

4. Bad day for John Idzik: The general manager's first draft pick, Milliner (No. 9 overall), was benched after a feeble tackle attempt on Mike Wallace's 28-yard touchdown in the third quarter. That makes three in-game benchings for Milliner. Idzik's third pick, Smith (second round), was benched at halftime. Suddenly, his bountiful draft doesn't look so bountiful. Idzik inherited a tough salary-cap situation, but other than trading for running back Chris Ivory, his pro personnel moves are easy to pick apart, especially at quarterback. This team is woefully devoid of talent on offense, and some of that falls on the GM.

Rex won't second-guess Sanchez decision

December, 1, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three months later, the ill-fated decision to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game still hovers over the New York Jets. Rex Ryan can't get away from it.

"It's easy when you look back on things," said Ryan, who was asked about it after Sunday's 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. "Injuries are part of the game. Anytime a player gets hurt, you regret that. There's no question about it. If I focus on what's behind us, it's not going to help us right now. No matter what my personal opinion is on that ... all I know is what's in front of us right now. We have to find a way. I'm not going to dwell on this or that. We just have to look forward and do what's best for the team right now."

It's an issue because, once again, the Jets are at a loss at quarterback. Ryan benched an ineffective Geno Smith at halftime, but Matt Simms failed to provide a spark. Going forward, Ryan's choices are a Smith, Simms and veteran David Garrard, who hasn't played in nearly three years.

Sanchez, two months removed from season-ending surgery, made his first appearance on the Jets' sideline.

Playoff picture: It ain't pretty. At 5-7, the Jets are behind the Dolphins (6-6) and Baltimore Ravens (6-6) for the final wild-card spot -- and both teams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets.

Afterward, a few players sounded like they've surrendered in the playoff chase.

"It's not like the season is over ... well, it might be record-wise," tight end Kellen Winslow said. "But it's still football and we still love the game."

What happened to the pass rush? Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 44 times in the Dolphins' first 11 games. The Jets' defensive line should've had a field day, but they managed only one sack (Quinton Coples).

"It's not just the defense, it's the whole team," defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. "We haven't played great ball in all three phases -- offense, defense or special teams."

Santonio Holmes sees just three snaps

December, 1, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Santonio Holmes, who missed two straight practices before Sunday, might have done more jogging for trainers on the field than he did running in the game.

The New York Jets' medical staff cleared the wide receiver and he was active, but took part in just three first-half plays before appearing to sit out the rest of the 23-3 loss to the Dolphins.

“It was coach’s decision,” Holmes said. “(I had) limited plays coming off an injury. We wanted to monitor that and make sure everything is OK for the rest of the season.”

Holmes is the Jets' highest-paid offensive skill player currently on the active roster, but he hasn’t been playing like it. After surgeries to repair a season-ending Lisfranc injury last year, Holmes missed five games this season and hasn’t been that productive during the past two, despite being technically active.

Coach Rex Ryan said the hamstring has bothered Holmes more than the foot at this point, and hasn’t said there was a setback in his rehab. Holmes, for his part, responds that he feels good whether he is inactive, practicing or able to play.

The only way to get an accurate picture is by watching him play, and Sunday there wasn’t much to see.

As Holmes has stalled, so has the offense, which didn’t score a passing touchdown in the month of November.

“It’s disappointing.,” Holmes said. “We work really hard during the week. We work on our red zone offense. We pride ourselves on scoring touchdowns. In the beginning of the season we were in the top 5 or top 10 through the first part of the season, and suddenly we have a big dropoff. We definitely have to get back to the drawing board and figure out how we keep this thing going.”

Winslow perplexed by lack of snaps

December, 1, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Since he returned from his four-game suspension, Kellen Winslow has barely seen the field in three games, including the New York Jets' 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The veteran tight end is perplexed as to why he's spending the majority of his time on the sideline.

"I don't know," Winslow said. "When they throw it, I catch it. I don't know."

Winslow caught a 12-yard pass in the first quarter Sunday, and was rarely used again until garbage time in the fourth quarter. He added two catches on the Jets' next-to-last drive, and finished with three catches for 26 yards, hauling in every pass thrown his way.

Entering Sunday, Winslow had not played more than 19 snaps in his two games since returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He played 11 snaps two weeks ago against Buffalo and 19 against Baltimore last week, and it doesn't appear he hit 19 against Miami. Jeff Cumberland has received the majority of the snaps at tight end.

"I don't know how to feel right now. I'm just trying to do the best I can in the situation I'm in," Winslow said. "When the ball is thrown to me I'm going to catch it every time and that's that."

While Winslow did not complain or say he was upset about his lack of playing time, this is the second time the topic has become an issue with him. In the last game he played before his suspension, Oct. 7 against Atlanta, Winslow was frustrated on the sideline, according to quarterback Geno Smith. After returning to the team, Winslow acknowledged he had been frustrated with his decreasing role.

Winslow this season has 23 catches for 246 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't give any indication Sunday he'd be talking to Jets coach Rex Ryan or offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg about his place in the offense. Then again, he likely said all he needed to with his postgame comments.

"That's not my fight. That's not my place on the team to go do that. My job is to just make plays when it comes," Winslow said. "When my number's called I make plays. When it's not I try to help the other guys. That's all I can do. Some things you just can't control. I don't know what to say."

Dolphins' defense shocks Geno Smith

December, 1, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Few things send a bigger message to a defense than a quarterback change due to performance. It was something that energized an aggressive Miami Dolphins' defense during a 23-3 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.

Miami's defense pummeled and confused Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith in the first half. Smith completed 4 of 10 passes for 29 yards and an interception before being benched by New York head coach Rex Ryan at halftime.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Olivier Vernon
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsOlivier Vernon and the Dolphins' defense chased Geno Smith from the game.
Smith now has one touchdown pass and 11 interceptions in his past seven games, and the Jets had finally seen enough after two quarters against Miami, replacing him with Matt Simms.

"It says a lot," Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon (2.5 sacks) said of the benching. "It says we're getting in their heads, and that's what we wanted. We wanted to shock them, and we felt like we got that done today and got the ‘W.'"

Miami's defense didn't allow a touchdown for the first time this season. After facing quality quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Joe Flacco, the Dolphins' defense got a break with the struggling Smith.

New York's offense gained just 39 total yards in the first half and Smith threw his 19th interception of the season to set up a field goal for Miami, which led 6-0 at intermission.

Ryan, in a move of desperation, made the switch with their playoff hopes on life support.

"We were doing nothing. We did absolutely nothing offensively in the first half," Ryan said. "So I was just trying to give us a spark somehow."

Added Vernon, "We knew we were getting in [Smith's] head, and the game went in our favor."

Several Dolphins defenders said after the game that they watched tape on Simms last week just in case. The Dolphins were aware of Smith's struggles and that a benching during the game was a possibility. The Dolphins' defense didn't want to be the group that helped Smith get his confidence back. It was mission accomplished for Miami.

"It sends a message that the other team is giving up on their quarterback," Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. "At the same time, [Simms] is in the NFL, too. He has things that he's good at. ... You can't really get too happy."

The Dolphins also can't get too happy. They're only a .500 team. But Sunday's win keeps Miami in the playoff race and added new layers to a rival's quarterback controversy.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets have benched rookie cornerback Dee Milliner more times than he's provided a difference-making play this season.

The Jets benched Milliner for the third time after he allowed a touchdown in the Jets' 23-3 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Milliner's struggles were part of another rough day for the secondary as the Jets yielded 331 passing yards.

"Just got to continue to play, continue to work, get better each day," Milliner said. "All I can do."

The Jets drafted Milliner with the ninth pick in the 2013 draft and have not received much return on their investment thus far. He missed three games with a hamstring injury, and when he has played, he's struggled in coverage.

Jets coach Rex Ryan had previously benched Milliner against New England on Sept. 12, and against Cincinnati on Oct. 27. The third time came Sunday after Milliner allowed Mike Wallace to elude his grip and scamper down the sideline for a 28-yard score to make it 20-3 in the third quarter. Milliner said he should have put his shoulder into Wallace to make the tackle.

Darrin Walls replaced Milliner after his benching, and Milliner said he's not sure if he's going to be the starter next week. Ryan didn't go into specifics on the benching, but said Milliner needed to be more aware of situations on the field. The rookie admitted he's struggled more than he expected to.

"I wanted to come in and try to get some games under me, play, try to help the team the best way I can," Milliner said. "I've been struggling here. You're going to have that, but have to get over it."

While Milliner's struggles were magnified by his benching, he wasn't the only Jets defensive back to have a rough day. Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 28-of-43 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns, consistently using short routes to exploit the middle of the field.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie played after leaving last Sunday's game with a hip injury, and didn't have his finest performance. He missed a few tackles early, as the Dolphins were not afraid to run to his side, and he got beat by Brian Hartline on a slant that the receiver turned into a 31-yard touchdown pass to put the Dolphins ahead 13-0 in the third quarter.

"The way I feel right now, I feel like I'm about 60," Cromartie said with a laugh after the game. "It held up. I felt good. This is the best I felt, just having confidence in my hip. Just going out and just running around, felt like I could go out and go play football. Didn't have any problem with it or anything like that."

Over the final few weeks, the Jets will likely do everything in their power to help Milliner out of his funk and finish the season strong. Cromartie is confident the rookie can bounce back.

"He's a tough kid, he's mentally strong. That's what it takes as a cornerback. You got to move on to the next one and move forward," Cromartie said. "Only thing you can do is get better."

The Dolphins survive and advance

December, 1, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The playoffs are now for the Miami Dolphins. There are no excuses and there's no margin for error.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, they put together their most complete game of the season in a 23-3 victory over the AFC East rival New York Jets.

[+] EnlargeJoe Philbin
Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports"It's Dec. 1 and you have to play your best football here in December," coach Joe Philbin said.
Miami (6-6) got back to .500 and advanced in its pseudo first-round matchup with a crucial road win at MetLife Stadium. This kind of performance came at the right time for Miami, which remains in the thick of the wild-card hunt in the AFC with four games remaining.

"We told the guys [Saturday] in the meeting that it's Dec. 1 and you have to play your best football here in December," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. "We talked earlier in the week about making this a one-game season, focusing on the game at hand, and all the other stuff will take care of itself."

Miami certainly took care of business -- at least for one week. But the inconsistent Dolphins had the look Sunday of a team capable of stringing together some wins down the stretch.

Miami didn't allow a touchdown on defense for the first time this season and played aggressively on offense. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for a season-high 331 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He had a 94.2 passer rating and got help from the defense, which forced the Jets to bench struggling starting quarterback Geno Smith at halftime.

The Dolphins clearly played this game with a sense of urgency, while the Jets (5-7) have their slim playoff hopes on life support. It was a win-win for the Dolphins. The teams will meet again in the regular-season finale in Miami.

"Everybody felt like their backs were against the wall," Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "We know what type of team we are. We just have to keep fighting."

The pressure remains on the Dolphins to keep winning. They do not hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Baltimore Ravens (6-6), who are ahead of Miami for the sixth seed. There are several other teams in the AFC mix, as well.

Next week is another must-win game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7). The Dolphins cannot afford to lose another head-to-head tiebreaker against a playoff hopeful if they want to stay alive in the wild-card chase.

"We have to win if we want to be relevant as a team," offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. "We will continue to work. But when we have balance, we're pretty good."

Rapid Reaction: New York Jets

December, 1, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 23-3 loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: Playoffs? Forget it. The Jets (5-7) all but destroyed their postseason hopes with their third straight loss. They've been outscored in those games 79-20. The Rex Ryan Watch is on. The Jets, once regarded as a surprise team, are falling apart before our eyes. The offense was utterly hopeless, leading to the halftime benching of Geno Smith. His replacement, Matt Simms (two turnovers), failed to provide a spark. Ryan's team is regressing against what many thought was a favorable schedule. It's one thing to get blown out by the Baltimore Ravens on the road, but there's no excuse for getting bullied by the Dolphins (6-6) at home.

Stock watch: The Jets don't have a quarterback controversy; they have a quarterback problem. What now: Smith or Simms? Does it really matter anymore? Smith, continuing his funk, completed only 4 of 10 passes for 29 yards and an interception, his 23rd turnover. He has led the offense to only one touchdown in his last 36 possessions. He had to be pulled from the game; the offense generated only two first downs and 39 yards in the first half. The Jets finished with a season-low 170 yards. The rookie needs some time on the sideline, a mental respite. Is Simms the long-term answer? No, but he's the best alternative. Evidently, Ryan has no faith in third-stringer David Garrard.

Can anybody tackle? The Jets' once-formidable secondary, circa 2011, has turned into a punch line. The decision to draft cornerback Dee Milliner with the ninth overall pick, as a replacement for Darrelle Revis, is getting worse by the game. Aside from playing soft in coverage, Milliner missed a tackle on Mike Wallace's 28-yard touchdown reception. Someone forgot to tell Milliner this is tackle football, because he went after Wallace as if he were playing flag football. That earned him a seat on the bench, his third in-game benching this season.

He wasn't the only culprit. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, playing with a bad hip, got beat on Brian Hartline's 31-yard touchdown -- a simple slant in which LB DeMario Davis and S Ed Reed also missed tackles. Once again, Reed was invisible in pass coverage. The secondary got little help from the pass rush, which recorded only one sack against Ryan Tannehill, who began the day with a league-high 44 sacks.

No one Holmes: WR Santonio Holmes, hampered by a hamstring injury, played sparingly. What was the point in dressing him? He apparently convinced the medical staff and coaches in the pregame warm-ups that he was good to go. As expected, WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow) was inactive.

What's ahead: The Jets remain at home to face the Oakland Raiders (4-8), who will have extra rest because they played on Thanksgiving.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

December, 1, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 23-3 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday.

What it means: The Dolphins (6-6) get back to .500 with a big road victory against an AFC East rival. The victory puts Miami in solid standing to make a run for the final wild-card spot in the AFC with four games remaining. The Dolphins have a similar record with the Baltimore Ravens (6-6) but do not own the head-to-head tiebreaker. This game also puts a significant dent in New York’s slim playoff chances at 5-7. These two teams also meet again in the regular-season finale in Miami.

Stock watch: Miami receiver Brian Hartline's stock is up after his best game of the season. Hartline recorded nine receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Hartline’s best play was when he beat Jets No. 1 corner Antonio Cromartie for a 31-yard touchdown on a slant play in the third quarter. Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon also continued his solid season with 2.5 sacks.

In terms of stock down, there isn’t much the Dolphins did poorly in this big win. The early offense was questionable, especially in the red zone. Miami left a lot of points on the field due to an early missed field goal and two turnovers on downs in the first half. But at least the Dolphins were being aggressive.

QB switch for NY: Miami didn’t do much, if any, preparation for Jets backup quarterback Matt Simms. But New York head coach Rex Ryan benched the struggling Geno Smith at halftime after a poor start. The Dolphins handled the quarterback switch well and stuck to their game plan. They pressured the quarterback and forced Smith and Simms to beat Miami with their arm. Neither player had much success.

What’s next: The Dolphins continue their string of important December games when they travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7). This will be another important game in Miami’s quest to get a wild card in the AFC.

W2W4: Dolphins at Jets

November, 30, 2013
The Miami Dolphins (5-6) will travel to New York to face the rival Jets (5-6) in what is a playoff eliminator for both teams.

Here are three things to watch from Miami's perspective:

Can the Dolphins run? On paper, Miami's running game is at a major disadvantage against New York's No. 1-rated run defense. The Dolphins are No. 26 running the football this year and they just lost their second-leading rusher -- Daniel Thomas -- to a significant ankle injury. Dolphins rookie tailback Mike Gillislee will combine with Marcus Thigpen to add depth behind starter Lamar Miller. Miami will need at least some success on the group to keep New York's aggressive defense honest.

Focus on Tannehill: Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is nearly complete with his second season. But we haven't seen signs of Tannehill taking over games and putting the Dolphins on his shoulders. It's time for Tannehill to remove the kid's gloves and try to carry Miami's offense. The Dolphins haven't scored more than 27 points all season. It's important for Tannehill to get hot down the stretch for Miami to have a shot at the postseason.

Vulnerable Geno: After facing quality quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck this year, Miami's defense gets a relative reprieve this week with Jets quarterback Geno Smith. New York's quarterback is struggling and vulnerable. He has just one touchdown and 10 interceptions in the past six games. Miami would love to continue to pile on Smith and pick up a key win. Look for New York to protect Smith with a running game and solid defense. The Dolphins will try to make Smith beat Miami through the air.