Miami Dolphins: 2013 Week 13 MIA at NYJ

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.

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: 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.