AFC East: Dolphins-Jets
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- There's a chance Terrell Owens' glitz and glamour may not go over well in Buffalo.
- Regardless of how Owens' arrival plays out for the Bills, there's no denying they have everybody's attention now.
- For T.O., can what happened in Dallas stay in Dallas?
- From the "Be Careful What You Wish For" department -- Bills quarterback Trent Edwards asked for the Bills to sign Owens.
- The Dolphins are looking for a cornerback in a thin market.
- Dolphins receiver Brandon London fills the void by taking a spin on the runway.
New England Patriots
- Kicker Stephen Gostkowski hopes to stay with the Patriots beyond next season.
New York Jets
|Doug Murray/Icon SMI|
|Under the Parcells regime, the Dolphins became the first team ever to go from winning a single game one year to being playoff-bound the next.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DAVIE, Fla. -- The process began two days after Christmas 2007. A cataclysmic event took place at the Miami Dolphins facility. An observer arrived. He might as well have worn a black cloak and had a sickle in his grip.
He stood there, arms folded mostly, and watched from the sideline, taking mental notes that would decide the fate of dozens and alter the course of a franchise hurtling into NFL oblivion.
"I think the air in the practice field got a little thin," defensive end Vonnie Holliday said.
Bill Parcells had arrived to straighten out a team headed toward 1-15. He didn't say much on the field that day. He exchanged quick pleasantries with head coach Cam Cameron, spoke to a couple of trainers.
But the process had begun -- quietly, icily.
"Guys were nervous out there," Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter said.
Several Dolphins confessed they barked out their calls louder, ran faster and tackled harder under Parcells' surveillance.
A few veterans scoffed at the difference, claiming that if their teammates were playing harder just because Parcells was there, then they must not have been giving their all before.
Yet that, in fact, was the case, whether they wanted to admit it or not. Parcells' mere presence, forged by Super Bowls and high-profile turnarounds, whacked the Dolphins in their earholes.
He has remained virtually silent while overseeing the greatest single-season upgrade in NFL history.
On Sunday, one year and one day after Parcells first emerged onto the Dolphins practice field, they defeated the New York Jets at the Meadowlands to claim the AFC East championship.
As unfathomable as it seemed when Parcells agreed to renovate the dilapidated franchise, the Dolphins will host a playoff game next Sunday when they meet the Baltimore Ravens.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let the record show the final play of Brett Favre's 2008 season, perhaps the final play of his illustrious career, was an illegal forward pass on a desperation call designed to weave through the Stanford band.
The play was symbolic of Favre's season with the New York Jets. It was a pass that shouldn't have been made, a penalty that wasted time and set the Jets back. Sure, it allowed them one more do-over, but not a quality opportunity.
The Jets gave the play one last try, but Favre watched it from the sideline.
At Monday morning's news conference to announce head coach Eric Mangini's dismissal, Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum indicated they would like to have Favre back in 2009.
Favre fell apart down the homestretch and was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his throwing shoulder.
He threw two touchdown passes and nine interceptions over his final five games. He threw three interceptions and had a season-low 45.1 passer rating in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins at the Meadowlands.
The Jets tried to manage Favre throughout the season by having him throw quick, short passes. The ball-control strategy worked for a while, but Sunday's game was a mess in that regard.
Doug Kern of ESPN Stats & Analysis dissected the video and discovered how awful Favre was on passes that traveled less than 10 yards.
Favre completed 12 of 22 such attempts for 76 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Dolphins defensive lineman Phillip Merling returned Favre's second interception 25 yards for a touchdown.
Favre had a 24.1 passer rating on throws inside 10 yards, and a 22.1 passer rating on attempts of any distance outside the field numbers.
NEW YORK -- Jets owner Woody Johnson was appalled by his team's performance throughout the course of the season, but said he made up his mind Sunday night he would fire head coach Eric Mangini.
So, Jets fans, feel free to us this forum to share your favorite Mangini memories or lobby for your preferred replacement. Here are a few names to mull:
- Bill Cowher
- Marty Schottenheimer (father of Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer)
- Jim Fassel
- Brian Billick
- Bill Parcells (could be a free agent)
- Herm Edwards
- Steve Spagnuolo
- Josh McDaniels
- Mike Mularkey
- Rex Ryan
- Paul Pasqualoni
- Urban Meyer
The Jets finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs despite a splendid showing deep into November, when they had compiled an 8-3 record after consecutive road victories over the New England Patriots and the undefeated Tennessee Titans.
"We just felt we could get a better fit moving forward with someone else at this point," Johnson said at a Monday morning news conference.
But Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum were vague and dodged questions when reporters tried to get specific reasons why Mangini was fired.
Maybe Mangini refused to accept demotion to the cafeteria. We're not sure yet.
Johnson suggested he had decided a change was needed early in the season, but there's no way Mangini's dismissal would be in the cards in November, when they were the fashionable pick to win the AFC and perhaps play an all-New York Super Bowl against the Giants.
"Mike has done a very good job trying to get talent and to fill all positions with talent and backups," Johnson said.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As far as I know, there was nothing criminal about the way the Miami Dolphins got into the playoffs.
New England Patriots fans, however, feel like victims of aggravated robbery.
Miami and New England finished with 11-5 records, but Miami used the fourth tiebreaker to get into the postseason.
Here is a breakdown of how it happened, the critical difference being a Dolphins victory over the San Diego Chargers in Week 5:
- The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. The Dolphins and Patriots split, winning on the road and losing at home. The Dolphins won 38-13 in Week 3. The Patriots won 48-28 in Week 12.
- The second tiebreaker is division record. Both finished 4-2, each splitting with the Jets and sweeping the Buffalo Bills.
- The third tiebreaker is record against common opponents. The Dolphins and Patriots each went 11-3.
- The fourth tiebreaker is conference record. The Dolphins went 8-4, while the Patriots went 7-5.
San Diego becomes the deciding factor here.
The Dolphins and Patriots went 0-2 against their uncommon AFC opponents. The Dolphins lost to the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.
So the only discrepancy becomes San Diego. Miami won 17-10 at Dolphin Stadium in Week 5. The next week, the Chargers crushed the Patriots, 30-10, in Qualcomm Stadium in the second game of a two-week West Coast trip.
A case can be made that travel hurt the Patriots, who also had to win back-to-back West Coast games in Weeks 14 and 15 to stay in the hunt.
For the record, here is how the Ravens earned the second wild-card berth over the Patriots:
- The first wild-card tiebreaker is a head-to-head result, if applicable, but it's not in this case.
- The second tiebreaker is conference record. The Ravens went 8-4 in the AFC, one victory better than the Patriots.
Breaking down how the Ravens edged the Patriots is more speculative because they played much different schedules. They each went 2-3 against common opponents (Pittsburgh, Miami, Indianapolis, Oakland).
NEW YORK -- One of the great joys of being in Manhattan the morning after a major local sports event is grabbing a coffee and taking a walk to the nearest newsstand to see how the story is being played in the papers.
Before sunrise, I headed out to gather the early editions and see what they had to after the New York Jets' maddening season came to an end.
Here's a roundup of the headlines and stories from Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The New York Post delivered a double-whammy. On the front, photos of head coach Eric Mangini and Brett Favre flanked the headline "Dump 'em: Losers Mangini, Favre must go." On the back page was a shot from behind of Favre, sitting on the turf, above the headline "Phinished!"
- Columnist Steve Serby wants Mangini to be fired.
- Beat reporter Brian Costello is ready to begin the autopsy.
The New York Daily News called them "Gag Green" above a photo of Favre on his back. The second headline reads "Woody fumes as Jets choke away season; Favre, Mangini could be goners."
- Jets owner Woody Johnson was uncharacteristically candid about his anger, reports Rich Cimini.
- Columnist Vic Ziegel writes about Chad Pennington's sweet homecoming.
- Columnist Gary Myers lobbies for Bill Cowher.
Newsday was disappointingly less emphatic, choosing to ask questions. On its front page was "Jets Out -- Is Favre Next?" On the back page was "Jets departures?"
- Columnist Bob Glauber is decisive, calling for a new head coach and quarterback.
- Mangini still expects to be back for 2009, reports Katie Strang.
The broadsheet New York Times only teased the Jets on the front page, but on the sports section ran a half-page photo of Favre getting hit by Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell under this headline: "The Bitter End."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Not even the Miami Dolphins' biggest fan could fathom the playoffs, much less a division title.
"I thought if we did 8-8 this year, we would have done well," Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said Sunday after his team beat the New York Jets, 24-17, at the Meadowlands to claim the AFC East crown. "I was trying to be realistic. This is unbelievable."
Huizenga stopped briefly to speak with the South Florida media outside the Dolphins' locker room and also addressed ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen's story that Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells could leave the team.
Mortensen reported Parcells has a walkout option in his contract if Huizenga sells the team. Huizenga is selling 95 percent of the Dolphins and their stadium to real-estate developer Stephen Ross. The sale is pending league approval, but it should be finalized next month.
The clause states Parcells would answer only to Huizenga, and if ownership were to change, then Parcells would get a one-time option to bolt. If Parcells chooses to leave, the Dolphins still would have to pay him $12 million.
"You know about the clause he has in his contract," Huizenga said. "Now he has to decide what he wants to do. He's done a fantastic job. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Bill and the people he brought in and the people they brought in. So I give those people all the credit in the world."
Huizenga was asked if he has spoken to Parcells about the situation.
"It's out of my hands," Huizenga said. "I've told him he ought to stick around. I don't know what he's going to do."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In the visitors' locker room at the Meadowlands, the Miami Dolphins celebrated their incredible AFC East championship Sunday. They'd defeated the New York Jets, 24-17, and clinched a postseason invitation.
Off to the side, in a room used by trainers to repair the troops, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was a voyeur. He leaned against a wall and proudly watched his players enjoy their astounding payoff.
I asked Ireland if he'd be willing to grant a rare interview. He gladly moseyed over to talk about the team he helped build.
Can you put into words what you're feeling right now?
Jeff Ireland: I can't sum it up in words. It's a remarkable feeling. I'm so proud of these coaches, these players. Coach always asked us and the players right there in training camp, "Why not us?" Well, Why not us? I'm just so proud of the coaches and what they've done.
At what point did "Why not us?" evolve from mere words?
JI: These players took ownership of what Bill, Tony and myself were trying to get turned around. They took ownership right away, and they got it done. It seems like it's been maturing from Day 1. This whole team has just done a great job.
How proud are you to pull this off in your first year as a GM?
JI: It's nerve-wracking. You put your heart and soul into something, you put your life into this. To sit here and look back and watch these players as happy as they are, these coaches as happy as they are, I feel the same way. It's an unbelievable feeling to watch these guys bounce around. To do what they've done is a great feeling.
How did your team of so many castoffs come together?
JI: They love football. What we did when we came here was find the guys that love football. You really found that out about his team pretty early on. They want to be around football. They wanted to take ownership of something, and they absolutely did that. It's a great cast, and our coaches did a hell of a job of putting them in positions to be successful. That's why coach [Tony] Sparano is coach of the year, in my opinion.
Have you spoken to Bill Parcells yet?
JI: [Dolphins owner] Wayne [Huizenga] and I both called him together. He was excited for about 30 seconds, and then he said, "Let's get back to business."
Is it too soon to start thinking about the Ravens yet?
JI: We're going to let this soak in for 12 hours. Then we'll get back to work. You've got to be thinking ahead. We're a proactive group here.
The Ravens have beaten you already, but Tony Sparano noted in his news conference the Jets had beaten you before, too. Is next week a continuation of the "Why not us" theme?
JI: Why not? Hey, there's an old cliché, "Any given Sunday."
What was the scene like in the locker room before the reporters were allowed in?
JI: A lot of emotions. A lot of hard work that comes out in these emotions. You just can't say enough about what these players have gone through from last year to this year. The emotion came out. It's a great feeling to see these guys do what they've been able to do.
|AP Photo/Julie Jacobson|
|Quarterback Chad Pennington helped lead Miami's historic turnaround from a 1-15 season.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Miami Dolphins were reveling in their improbable accomplishment. From worst to first they went, a feat clinched with a 24-17 victory Sunday over the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.
Already they wore commemorative gray ball caps, emblazoned with their logo underneath "Division Champions" in block letters and with "Playoffs" displayed on the headband. White T-shirts told the same tale.
"Usually, my wife wants the T-shirt," Dolphins nose tackle Jason Ferguson said of his beloved swag, "but not this time."
Defensive end Vonnie Holliday took off his AFC East championship hat and slowly panned it, point blank, before a throng of camera lenses. He wanted the naysayers and the doubters to take a close look at it.
As the music thumped in the visitors' locker room, first-year Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland leaned against a wall, watched his players and soaked in the moment.
Moments before he and owner Wayne Huizenga phoned football operations boss Bill Parcells, who didn't make the trip, to share the celebration.
"He was excited for about 30 seconds," Ireland said of his brief chat with Parcells, "and then he said, 'Let's get back to business.' "
Miami's historic turnaround from a 1-15 season was 12 months in the making. Ireland said, "we're going to let this soak in for 12 hours. Then we'll get back to work."
For the first time in seven seasons, the Dolphins will play a 17th game. They will host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
While the Dolphins take a moment to rejoice, assistant director of player personnel Brian Gaine is hard at work compiling the advance scouting reports. Gaine won't have to start from scratch on this one because the teams already have met this season -- and it wasn't pretty for Dolfans.
Baltimore handled Miami like few teams this year, posting a comprehensive 27-13 victory in Dolphin Stadium on Oct. 19.
"In the playoffs, everybody starts off 0-0," Ferguson said. "So if they're holding that up, saying they beat us last time and we're going to be the same team. ... We're definitely going to be a totally different team. We worked hard since then."
Both teams have gone on torrid runs since then. The Dolphins won nine of their last 10 regular-season games, their lone loss coming against the New England Patriots.
The Ravens used their success over the Dolphins to kick off a stretch of nine victories in their last 11 games, beating the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys along the way. The Ravens' only losses in that span were to the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
"The Ravens are an outstanding football team," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "We know that. It's a tremendous defense, and they beat us already. The Jets beat us the first time they played us as well.
"We're well aware of how good a football team they are. They're playing tremendously
right now. I think our guys are playing pretty good, too."
With that in mind, let's take a glance at what transpired in Week 7 between the Ravens and Dolphins:
1. One of Chad Pennington's poorer games.
Pennington is worthy of MVP consideration for what he has provided the Dolphins, but his game against the Ravens was disappointing. His stat line looked decent enough: He completed 24 of 35 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown with an interception for a 92.0 passer rating.
But Pennington's interception changed the game. Perhaps his worst decision of the year came when he threw it directly to Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs in the flat. Suggs had nothing between him and the end zone 44 yards away to break a 3-3 tie and give the Ravens a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
2. The Ravens ran roughshod.
The Ravens gained 139 rushing yards, the most by a Dolphins opponent until the Kansas City Chiefs ground out 180 yards in Week 16. But the Ravens amassed 101 of their rushing yards in the second half to demoralize the Dolphins as the game wore on.
Willis McGahee ran 19 times for 105 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 47 yards.
This should make Dolfans swallow hard: Le'Ron McClain, who has been a bull lately, was used sparingly in Week 7. He had only six carries for 17 yards. In McClain's last six games he rushed for 531 yards and five touchdowns.
3. The Ravens defense made bigger plays.
The Dolphins' offensive line generally kept Pennington safe, allowing one sack. But in addition to Suggs' touchdown, the Ravens bottled the Dolphins' eccentric Wildcat offense and reduced running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to non-factor status.
The Dolphins ran for only 71 yards. One yard came from the Wildcat, which had been dazzling in the three weeks leading into that game.
"We got a lot of work ahead of us," Brown said Sunday after beating the Jets. "We can't make the mistakes we made today. We're going to have to come out and play fundamental football."
Brown also said the Ravens have "a lot of guys that can make plays, but the funny thing about it is on the offensive side of the ball we have guys that can make plays."
4. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't disrupted enough.
The Dolphins got to Flacco twice all afternoon, and it wasn't enough. Flacco, making his sixth career start, completed 17 of 23 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown. He didn't
throw an interception and finished with a 120.2 passer rating, his best of the year.
"I know what we've got to do," Ferguson said. "Our defense has got to really try to play with their defense. Their defense plays with a lot of emotion. They make a lot of plays for them.
"We really got to match their defense. Our offense is going to handle their business, but we've got to help them out and play great."
5. Baltimore owned the fourth quarter.
The Ravens kept the ball for 10 minutes, 20 seconds in the final quarter. They ran 19 plays to the Dolphins' 11, including a three-and-out series.
The Ravens converted two of their four third downs, while the Dolphins failed on two third downs and one fourth down.
But the Dolphins have been solid in the fourth quarter over the past month. They've won several close games down the homestretch.
Asked Sunday about Miami's fourth-quarter prowess, Ferguson rapped his knuckles on the side of his locker stall while talking proudly.
"It sounds good," Ferguson said. "Let me get some wood ..."
"Because all I know we own the fourth quarter lately ..."
"And I'm going to continue doing it.
"We worked hard all through the game, and knowing in the fourth quarter we had a chance to win, we made plays on defense. The offense got a field goal. That was it then. We felt the momentum change."
We'll find out next Sunday if the Dolphins have changed momentum enough to knock off a team that beat them handily 10 weeks ago.
The Dolphins finished with 13 giveaways, one fewer than the 1990 New York Giants, who were coached by Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells.
But this year's Giants, coached by former Parcells assistant Tom Coughlin, also finished with 13 turnovers. They committed zero in Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
"We pride ourselves on playing tough, disciplined football," Pennington said. "We make sure we don't beat ourselves.
"The coaches talk about it all the time, but the best thing is our players have taken ownership of that. As players and a team, you have to take ownership of your responsibilities and what you're asked to do. Our guys have done that."
The Dolphins are one of only eight teams in NFL history to average less than one turnover per game.
With the New England Patriots winning earlier this afternoon, the Dolphins needed the victory to claim the AFC East title with an 11-5 record. They went 1-15 last year.
- No team ever has made the playoffs after a one-win campaign.
- No team ever has won double-digit games after a one-win campaign.
- Only the 1999 Indianapolis Colts improved their record by 10 victories over the previous season, so the Dolphins tied that record, too.
Favre, in what could be his final game, completed 19 of 39 attempts for 227 yards and one touchdown, but threw three interceptions.
Phillip Merling returned Favre's second interception 25 yards for a touchdown. The third came on the Dolphins 25-yard line and the Jets down by seven points.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Unless he still has a little magic in that right arm of his, Brett Favre might be entering the final quarter of his career.
Chad Pennington is outplaying him. Pennington has completed 21 of 28 passes for 191 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Favre has completed 12 of 29 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which Dolphins defensive end Phillip Merling returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
Pennington threw a 27-yard strike to Ted Ginn to put the Miami Dolphins ahead of the New York Jets, 7-6, at the Meadowlands. The play capped a six-play drive, all passes, with Pennington completing five for 60 yards.
On the next play from scrimmage, Favre threw an interception to Dolphins rookie defensive end Phillip Merling, who rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown.
Dolphins on top, 14-6 with 2 minutes left in the second quarter.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The quarterback mistake-o-meter is even.
But the Jets forced their first turnover, causing Chad Pennington to fumble uncharacteristically. Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas sacked Pennington and jarred the ball loose. Jason Trusnik leaped in for the recovery on the 42-yard line.
Although the Dolphins couldn't covert a bad Brett Favre interception into points, the Jets made the Dolphins pay for Pennington's fumble. Favre eventually connected with Laveranues Coles for a 13-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead (the Jets botched the extra point).
The Dolphins have committed only 13 turnovers all year, and if they don't cough up another one they'll break the NFL record for fewest in a 16-game season. That record is held by the 1990 New York Giants.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It looks like the New York Jets will show updates from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens only when there's something positive to share.
While the Jaguars-Ravens game is not being shuffled through the out-of-town scoreboard, the Jets keep flashing this on the Giants Stadium video scoreboard: Jaguars 7, Ravens 3.
In other words, nobody needs to know anything about the Jags and Ravens unless the Jets feel their players and fans can stomach it. For the Jets to make the playoffs, they must beat the Miami Dolphins, and the Jags need to upset the Ravens.
I guess everybody should start worrying when they haven't seen an update in a while.