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.
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.