Jets close out season by ending Dolphins’ playoff hopes
There was no quit in the Jets, who have put together two straight wins since being eliminated in Week 15. The latest victory, amidst rumors head coach Rex Ryan could be fired, came on the road with a 20-7 win over the Dolphins.
Playing in front of his hometown crowd, Jets quarterback Geno Smith put together one of his best performances of the season. He limited mistakes and stretched plays and drives with his running ability.
He finished the game 17-of-27 for 190 yards. He also had seven rushing attempts for 47 yards with a touchdown on the ground.
The performance from Smith and the team as a whole was a far cry from Week 13 when the Dolphins beat the Jets 23-3 at MetLife Stadium. In that game, Smith was yanked at halftime with the Jets down just 6-0.
After Mike Wallace caught a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Jets responded in big way. A 10-play, 71-yard drive was finished off by a 1-yard touchdown run from Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. The Richardson rumble, between the guards, was the second touchdown of the season for the rookie, who is the favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Jets took a 14-7 lead into halftime with an efficient 11-play drive in 2:18 on their final drive of the half. A 31-yard pass from Smith to wide receiver David Nelson moved the chains to the goal line and Smith took a designed quarterback keeper seven yards into the end zone three plays later.
What we learned …
1. Emotional Rex
Ryan was as fiery and passionate as ever despite the speculation surrounding the Jets head coach. He ran down the sideline to celebrate the touchdown before halftime – reminiscent of his celebration in the infamous playoffs at the Patriots. And when the Jets came up with a big third-down stop in the third quarter, he was leaping up and down along the sideline. Unlike in year’s past when the Jets fell apart at the end of the season, this locker room did not splinter into different factions. Remember when the locker room was called “toxic” after the 2011 season? The Jets stuck together and to a man say they want Ryan back next year.
2. Holmes does better
After a rough game two weeks ago at the Panthers and two bad drops drops last week, Santonio Holmes stepped up in what might be his last game in green and white. With four catches for 34 yards in the past two games, Holmes played with some purpose in this game. His three catches for 41 yards were not huge numbers but maybe enough to give Jets management pause about his future. He said he’s willing to take a pay cut to return and while he is far from his form of 2010 and 2011, he could be intriguing at the right price. Young wide receivers rave about his mentorship and he seems to have shed the locker room-cancer label. Sunday showed he has a little something left.
3. Going 8-8
It is well established the Jets haven’t made the playoffs in three seasons and they haven’t had a winning record since 2010. But with a win on the road and their first winning streak of the season, the Jets now have momentum heading into the offseason with a young team and plenty of cap space. If Ryan returns, they could definitely make a nice sales pitch to potential free agents as an organization primed for the postseason. The Jets are going in the right direction and Sunday’s win proved it.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.