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Jets-Dolphins: What we learned

The SportsXchange

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With a convincing victory Sunday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins remain in the playoff conversation. For the New York Jets, the season - regardless of how they choose to break down the remaining four games - is all but over.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 331 yards and a pair of touchdown passes and the Dolphins manhandled the Jets in a 23-3 win at MetLife Stadium.

"We talked earlier in the week about making this a one-game season and focusing on the game at hand and all the other stuff would take care of itself," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "Our focus was good (Sunday)."

With the win, the Dolphins (6-6) moved into a tie for the final AFC wild card spot with Baltimore. The Ravens have the tiebreaker over Miami by virtue of a 26-23 win on Oct. 6.

"We want to play meaningful games in December," said Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline, who led Miami with nine catches for 127 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown. "This league's about winning championships, but first you've got to put yourself in position to contend for them. We want to stay in contention to be in the playoffs, so that's our goal right now."

Contending seemed to be a reasonable goal two weeks ago for the Jets, whose 5-4 record through 10 weeks gave them sole possession of the second wild card. But the Jets have lost their last three games, a stretch in which they've been outscored 79-20, and are all but certain to miss the playoffs for a third straight season.

The Jets are only a game behind the Ravens and Dolphins but have suffered head-to-head losses to both clubs, as well as to fellow 5-7 teams Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

"We just haven't been able to get anything going the last three weeks - we haven't done anything offensively," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "And then on defense we've been kind of up and down."

With the Jets down 6-0 at the half and receiving the kickoff to open the third quarter, Ryan tried to generate a spark by benching beleaguered rookie quarterback Geno Smith -- who was 4 of 10 for 29 yards in the first two quarters -- in favor of undrafted first-year player Matt Simms.

A similar move by Ryan worked 52 weeks ago Sunday, when Greg McElroy relieved Mark Sanchez in the third quarter and directed the Jets to the only touchdown of the game in a 7-6 win over Arizona.

But history would not repeat itself for the Jets. Simms (9 of 18 for 79 yards) was passable in relief but directed the Jets to just three points while the Jets' struggling secondary finally snapped in the third quarter, when Tannehill hooked up for touchdowns with Hartline and Mike Wallace (28 yards) on consecutives series.

What the Dolphins said:

"We didn't talk about it a whole lot. We knew the situation. We're not stupid. So there was really nothing to talk about. Everyone was aware of it." -- Quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the must-win nature of Sunday's game.

What the Jets said:

"It was an awful performance by us. We got outplayed in all three phases of the game. I know our fans deserve a hell of a lot better than that. We better get better in a hurry. That's pretty obvious." -- Coach Rex Ryan.

What we learned about the Dolphins

1. Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace might finally be getting on the same page.

The Dolphins' potential franchise quarterback and their big free agent acquisition had no chemistry during the first half of the season, but they have connected 12 times for 209 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks, including seven times for 82 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 23-3 win over the Jets. Wallace had just 44 catches for 534 yards in the Dolphins' first 10 games.

"I think Mike's building on what he did last week. We were able to give him the ball downfield a little bit last week, kind of get that confidence up," Tannehill said. "He came up big today. He made some good catches against off coverage. Then, they zero blitzed us down in the strikezone, he catches it and breaks a tackle and he scores a touchdown, so it was fun to watch him play today."

2. The Dolphins don't control their own destiny in the race for the final wild-card spot, but they might be in the best position to grab the sixth seed, Miami plays just one team with a winning record the rest of the way -- New England on Dec. 15.

What we learned about the Jets

1. The Jets' quarterback misery continues. Geno Smith (4 of 10 for 29 yards and an interception) was finally pulled at halftime after a 6 1/2-game stretch in which he has thrown one touchdown and 11 interceptions while directing the Jets to just 70 points in 68 possessions behind center. Matt Simms (9 of 18 for 79 yards) wasn't terrible in relief, but the undrafted first-year signal-caller didn't look like the answer, either, in directing the Jets to a mere third-quarter field goal.

It was telling that coach Rex Ryan paused multiple times in declining to answer who would start at quarterback for the Jets next week, as if he was trying not to mention third string David Garrard. Asked later about the possibility of using Garrard, Ryan admitted the Jets almost activated him on Sunday. At the least, expect Garrard to be in uniform and ready to go next Sunday.

2. Rex Ryan is coaching for his job over these final four weeks. Ryan has pretty much spent the entire season in job interview mode under new general manager John Idzik and seemed to be in pretty good shape when the Jets were 5-4 after 10 weeks and in possession of the AFC's second wild card. But with the Jets all but out of contention after losing their last three games by a combined margin of 79-20, Ryan will really be under Idzik's microscope as he tries to salvage a respectable finish out of another lost season.

"It's not just the defense, it's the whole team," defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. "We haven't played great ball (in) all three phases, offense, defense (or) special teams. Once we start doing that week in and week out, we'll see the outcome of these games (get) better."
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