MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — There’s an inevitability about the Jets that lingers like that familiar and unfortunate stench in those rest-stop bathrooms on the Jersey Turnpike.
Even when things are going well, there’s a sense of impending doom that hangs in the air.
The Jets, despite entering the day 3-10 and despite being a 10-point underdog to the Dolphins, were in position to win a game they weren’t supposed to win Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium against a playoff contender that took a five-game winning streak into the game.
Alas, of course they didn’t.
Even after the Jets marched down the field with their first offensive possession looking like the Bill Walsh 49ers in diverse play-calling and personnel-deployment to take a 7-0 lead, the final result felt inevitable.
Even after safety Ashtyn Davis picked off a Tua Tagovailoa pass deep in Miami territory just 13 seconds after Braxton Berrios had given the Jets the 7-0 lead — a turnover that led to an Eddy Pineiro field goal and a 10-0 lead — the sinister inevitable awaited.
It all simply felt too good to be true.
That 10-0 advantage was the Jets’ largest lead this season, yet it all felt too good to be true.
There were so many moments in their 31-24 loss to the Dolphins that teased the uninitiated into thinking this might be the Jets’ day.
They got a 20-yard pick-six from cornerback Brandin Echols that tied the game at 24-24 with 7:45 remaining in regulation and sent the Jets sideline into a frenzy.
But that, of course, was followed by a soul-sucking 75-yard scoring drive by the Dolphins that ended in an 11-yard Tagovailoa scoring pass to DeVante Parker to give Miami its 31-24 lead with 3:37 remaining.
Prior to the Echols pick-six, the Dolphins gifted the Jets an opportunity in the fourth quarter when they botched a fake punt on a fourth-and-1.
The Jets’ offense promptly responded with a three-and-out.
What made the Miami fake punt so preposterous was the fact that, had the Dolphins simply gone for it and run the ball, they would have gained the first down because they ran at will on the Jets’ defense.
Miami entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing offense with an average of 79.2 yards per game and stamped 183 on the Jets’ defense like a tattoo on their collective derrieres.
Dolphins running back Duke Johnson, who was called up to the game-day roster as a COVID-19 replacement and had all of 18 rushing yards on four carries before Sunday, ran for 107 yards on 22 carries.
The Jets defense misses more tackles than former WFAN host Mike Francesa used to miss on his sports-radio hot-take predictions.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “A lot of missed tackles in the run game. It’s clearly not good enough.’’
The Jets, who looked so promising on offense in the first half, produced a total of 54 yards and three first downs in the second half. That’s nothing short of unacceptable.
No one can say Jets quarterback Zach Wilson didn’t have his chances to seize the moment to deliver like a No. 2 overall-draft pick is expected to.
After Miami took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, the Jets looked like they finally had something going offensively when Wilson completed a 24-yard pass to tight end Tyler Kroft and Tevin Coleman ran for 20 yards.
On the third play of that possession, though, Wilson lost the ball on a strip-sack and the Dolphins had the ball back.
After Miami took the 31-24 lead, Wilson and the offense had the ball with 3:37 remaining and two timeouts and went three-and-out.
Wilson got the ball back yet again with 1:36 remaining and one timeout and went four-and-out, the ultimate insult coming on their final offensive play — a Wilson completion to Keelan Cole for 9 yards.
In the four games since Wilson returned from his knee injury, the Jets are averaging 16.3 points on offense and have failed to eclipse 300 yards of offense in any of those games.
When Wilson was asked after the game how much “responsibility’’ falls on his shoulders for that, he gave the inquiring reporter a talk-to-the-hand Heisman with this response: “Yeah, I don’t worry about any of that stuff.’’
Well, he’d better start worrying about it.
It was a bad answer on the part of Wilson, who should have said something like, “I do take responsibility for that as the quarterback.’’
Still, there was something to build on in this game from that first half. After all, before Sunday the Jets hadn’t taken a lead into halftime all season.
“I think the guys felt good about where they stood,’’ Saleh said. “Obviously, the vibe was good. [It] just didn’t come to fruition.’’
It never does.