If only the New York Jets could play all of their games against losing teams at home, they’d be just fine.
Overcoming yet another slow start on offense, the Jets (3-3) returned home for the first time in four weeks to score the final 17 points and pull away for a 24-6 victory over the hapless Miami Dolphins (0-5) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Monday night.
Following three straight road losses to winning teams in Oakland (4-2), Baltimore (4-1), and New England (5-1), the travel-weary Jets felt at very much at home back in the Meadowlands, where they started the season by edging Dallas (2-3) and beating up on Jacksonville (1-5).
New York was ultimately able to continue its home success against the Dolphins, but as usual, things weren’t that easy for New York at the start.
For nearly 24 minutes, a struggling Jets’ offense consisted of a lone defensive play (with the help of a non-call), when cornerback Darrelle Revis (3 tackles, 2 INT, 2 pass deflections, 1 TD) got away with a goal-line mugging of wide receiver Brandon Marshall (6 catches, 109 yards) to free himself for a wide open interception of backup quarterback Matt Moore (16-34, 204 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks).
Revis returned the pick 100 yards (tying the longest in Jet history) to put New York ahead for good, 7-3, with 5:52 left in the opening quarter.
The game-turning play eased some early tense moments for Jet fans who were antsy about underdog Miami getting on the scoreboard first and looking for more in the New York red zone in the opening quarter.
Kicker Dan Carpenter had already capped a seven-play, 42-yard drive and had given the Dolphins a 3-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal with 7:28 left in the period, and the ensuing kickoff bounced off of Garrett McIntyre’s leg. The Dolphins recovered the loose ball at the New York 18-yard line but Revis’ pick came three plays later.
New York, which began the game with four straight three-and-outs while totaling a mere 14 yards, desperately needed Revis’ touchdown with Miami later going 77 yards on nine plays for a 21-yard Carpenter field goal that cut the Jets’ lead to 7-6 with 13:32 left in the first half.
The Jets maintained that lead after a Dolphins’ punt with 6:54 remaining in the half despite having been outgained 203-19 and amassing none of the game’s eight first downs to that point.
But, as quarterback Mark Sanchez (14-25, 201 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) finally found his rhythm on the Jets’ fifth possession, New York’s offense turned from simply offensive to suddenly productive, with Sanchez completing four of five passes for 70 yards during an 11-play, 81-yard march which Sanchez capped with a 5-yard touchdown run to give the Jets a 14-6 lead with 1:14 to go before halftime.
With only 100 yards of offense and five first downs, while being outgained 96-18 on the ground, the Jets were more than happy to take an eight-point lead into the locker room.
And, that was already more than enough for New York against one of the worst teams in the NFL, as the Dolphins (one of a trio of remaining winless teams in the NFL) were held to just 93 yards in the second half and punted four straight times before committing two turnovers (a fumble and another Moore interception) to finish the game.
The Jets meanwhile, extended their lead to 17-6 on a 28-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk, after going 79 yards on 13 plays on New York’s first drive of the second half.
New York still punted four more times thereafter, but the Jets also capped a four-play, 50-yard drive on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to wide receiver Santonio Holmes (3 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD) with 11:50 left in the game.
It was somewhat ironic that Holmes’ score was sort of the final word to silence the Dolphins after much was made earlier in the week of Holmes’ very outspoken criticism of the Jets’ inconsistent offensive line play during New York’s losing streak.
Holmes’ comments caused some team chemistry problems, but after waiting a month for both a home game and a victory, there were nothing but smiles and a happy football family once again in the Jets’ locker room.
New York will try to keep that feeling for while when it stays home before its bye week to host the San Diego Chargers (4-1), who will be riding a three-game winning streak when they visit MetLife Stadium at 1 pm ET on Sunday.