Jets blow upset chance in close loss to Dolphins

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Jets made you believe for a little while, didn’t they?

The Jets looked like they were primed for an upset Sunday, taking a 10-point lead over the Dolphins in the first half and tying the game in the fourth quarter. But any hope you had for the Jets turned out to be false. They reverted to form and lost 31-24 at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Jets blew two leads of 10 points and failed to score an offensive touchdown in the second half on their way to their third straight loss and a 3-11 record. The Dolphins improved to 7-7 and kept their playoff hopes alive with their sixth straight win.

Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson had some good moments in the game early but the Jets played a conservative style that did not ask much of him. Things fell apart for him in the second half and he was running for his life against the Dolphins blitz. Miami sacked Wilson six times. He was 13 of 23 for 170 yards. He also ran for a touchdown.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was not great, but threw two touchdown passes and did enough to get the win. He did have two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown by Brandin Echols to tie the game in the fourth.

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The Jets blew two 10-point leads in a loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 19, 2021.
AP

The game was tied at 24-24 when the Dolphins mounted the game-winning, nine-play, 75-yard drive. The big play was a 30-yard run by Myles Gaskin that put the Dolphins deep in Jets territory. DeVante Parker beat cornerback Bryce Hall on a slant for an 11-yard touchdown and the lead.

For the Jets, it was their fourth consecutive loss to the Dolphins, sixth consecutive loss at Hard Rock Stadium and 11th straight division loss.

The teams traded turnovers in the fourth quarter. Wilson fumbled after getting sacked with 12:56 left but the Dolphins failed to capitalize. The Dolphins then tried a fake punt at midfield but the snap from Blake Ferguson drilled up-back Clayton Fejedelem at high speed and he could not handle it. The Jets recovered the fumble and failed to do anything with it.

The Jets’ defense gave the team a chance when cornerback Echols jumped a terrible pass from Tagovailoa, intercepted it and returned it 20 yards for the touchdown to tie the game at 24-24 with 7:45 left.

The Jets’ last gasp ended fittingly when Wilson hit Keelan Cole for a 9-yard gain on fourth-and-10 with a minute left in the game.

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Jets cornerback Brandin Echols (#26) celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Dolphins on Dec. 19, 2021.
AP

Miami entered the game with the 31st-ranked rushing offense in the league, averaging 79.2 yards per game, but they ran all over the Jets. They had 185 rushing yards. Duke Johnson, who had 18 rushing yards this season entering the game, had 107 rushing yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.

The Jets jumped out to leads of 10-0 and 17-7 in the first half and looked like they might shock their division rivals. They also had their first halftime lead of the year, 17-10.

Wilson was efficient in the first half, completing his first six passes. He was throwing a lot of short, quick passes and the Jets moved down the field with touchdown drives of 10 and eight plays. The Dolphins’ pass rush did not have much luck in the first half but broke through in the second half. Wilson did a good job of dodging some of the pass rushers but could not escape them all.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur did a nice job in the first half using the tight ends and making life easy on Wilson. He also called a brilliant gadget play on third-and-long that resulted in a first down.

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Zach Wilson (#2) had some good moments early in the Jets’ loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 19, 2021.
Getty Images

Tagovailoa looked shaky early. The Jets’ defense opened the game by holding the Dolphins to a three-and-out.

The Jets then marched 83 yards on 10 plays with Braxton Berrios scoring a 2-yard rushing touchdown to give the Jets a 7-0 lead.

Tagovailoa made several terrible throws early in the game and Jets safety Ashtyn Davis intercepted him on Miami’s second possession. The Jets were only able to turn that turnover into a 24-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. The 10-0 lead was the Jets’ biggest of the season.

As positive as the Jets’ first half was, the second half was a return to their usual miserable play. They gained just 7 yards on two third-quarter possessions. The pass protection completely broke down and Wilson was under siege. The Dolphins tied the game with 9: 44 left in the third quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by Johnson.

The Jets’ defense looked shell-shocked after safety Elijah Riley went down in a scary scene. Riley collided with teammate Kyle Phillips while trying to tackle Johnson and injured his neck. Riley was down on the field for several minutes and was not moving. He was placed on a backboard and carted off. The Jets announced he had a neck injury. Riley did lift his arm up as he was carted off, but the Jets seemed to understandably lose some momentum after the injury.

The Dolphins took their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter with Tagovailoa throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass to defensive lineman Christian Wilkins to put the Dolphins up 24-17.

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