But with the game on the line, and their playoff hopes in jeopardy, the Jets came up with the big plays they needed.
New York overcame the weather, a sputtering offense and two late scores by Miami to win 13-10 on Monday night.
“For us it was all about chipping away and waiting for our moment,” Jets coach Eric Mangini said. “This was a game with tough conditions. We faced a lot of adversity.”
All of the points came in the final 17:25. Miami kicked a tying field goal with 2:09 left, but on the Jets’ next play, Leon Washington caught a short pass from Chad Pennington and broke loose for a 64-yard gain.
Four plays later, Mike Nugent kicked a 30-yarder with 10 seconds left. That meant the Jets (9-6) can clinch an AFC wild-card playoff berth if they beat Oakland (2-13) in their final regular-season game Sunday.
“We like controlling our own destiny and not having to rely on someone else to help us,” defensive end Shaun Ellis said.
For the Dolphins (6-9), the defeat ensures the first losing season for Nick Saban in his 13 years as a college and NFL coach. Miami was eliminated from the playoff race a week ago.
“When it came to it, we just fell apart on defense,” linebacker Zach Thomas said. “And they made great plays when they had to.”
The rain resulted in a succession of errant and dropped passes—and 18 punts. A mishandled snap spoiled a field goal try by New York. Dolphins cornerback Eddie Jackson left the game with a knee injury when he stumbled and fell on the slippery field without being hit.
When the Dolphins’ scoreless streak reached six quarters, Cleo Lemon replaced Joey Harrington at quarterback to start the second half. A third-year pro, Lemon threw his first NFL touchdown pass and finished 11-for-16 for 104 yards.
“We decided to go with Cleo to see if he would give us a little bit of a spark,” Saban said. “He did a decent job of moving the team a couple of times.”
Miami’s Ronnie Brown, back in the lineup after missing three games with a hand injury, rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries.
But in the fourth quarter, the Jets answered scores by the Dolphins with scoring drives of 80 and 68 yards.
“We didn’t knock them out, but we might have scored a technical knockout,” New York linebacker Jonathan Vilma said.
Cotchery was initially ruled down at the 1-yard line, but the Jets challenged the spot, and following a review the play was ruled a touchdown.
A funny bounce then produced the game’s only turnover—and the tying field goal for Miami.
A short punt by the Dolphins took a backward hop before deflecting off the arm of Jets blocker Brad Kassell, and Miami’s John Denney recovered at the Jets 42. Eight plays later, Olindo Mare kicked a 25-yard field goal.
Saban opted to kick rather than trying for a first down on fourth-and-1.
“Some guys wanted to go for it and some guys wanted to kick it,” Lemon said. “When it’s all said and done, Coach Saban’s got to make that decision.”
The game was an announced sellout, but because of the Christmas holiday, the bad weather and the Dolphins’ disappointing season, the stadium was less than half full at the start.
For much of the game, the best plays for the Jets were scrambles by Pennington, who twice ran for first downs. His 15-yard gain in the third quarter sparked the game’s first scoring drive, which produced a 22-yard field goal by Nugent.
Pennington finished 14-for-29 for 237 yards
The Jets mounted the best threat in a scoreless first half, driving 67 yards to the Miami 16. But when New York lined up for a 34-yard field goal try, the perfect snap slipped through the hands of holder Ben Graham and hit him in the helmet, giving the Dolphins possession.
Miami DB Eddie Jackson sustained a knee injury in the second quarter and was on crutches after the game. DB Andre Goodman aggravated a shoulder injury in the first quarter. DT Keith Traylor hurt his knee in the second half. … New York CB Andre Dyson hurt his right leg in the third quarter. … Former T Richmond Webb was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll at halftime. … The starting time of Miami’s game Sunday at Indianapolis was changed to 4:15 p.m. EST.