In a must-win game for both sides between two divisional rivals, it was the Miami Dolphins who took care of business, dominating the New York Jets on route to a 23-3 victory. The win evened the Dolphins record to 6-6 and allowed them to keep pace in the race for the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot.
Considering how well the Dolphins were able to move the ball, the scoreline was a generous one for the Jets. Despite only taking a 6-0 lead into the half, Miami was by far the better team. Although New York was only a touchdown away from leading, the Dolphins had 265 yards and 16 first downs compared to the Jets 39 yards and 2 first downs. From under throws by Ryan Tannehill to questionable play calling, Miami left a lot of points on the field.
However, the second half was a completely different story. The Dolphins were still able to move the ball with success but they were able to translate it into points. Tannehill settled in nicely and threw two touchdown passes, a 31 yard connection to Brian Hartline and a 28 yard pass to Mike Wallace to put the game out of reach. On both scores, the receivers were able to turn relatively short throws into big gains, something that's been lacking for Miami. Overall, it was an encouraging performance from Tannehill who finished the game with 331 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception that was a result of him getting hit on the play. The game marks the 4th time Tannehill has thrown for 300+ yards this season, the most in a single season for the Dolphins since Dan Marino was under center.
After getting paid in the offseason to be the team's top two receivers, Wallace and Hartline finally played the part in the same game. Hartline recorded 127 yards on 9 catches and a touchdown while Wallace had 82 yards on 7 receptions and a touchdown.
The Dolphins running backs had a surprisingly good performance, rushing for 103 yards against the league's best run defense. Lamar Miller led the way with 72 yards, rookie Mike Gillislee followed with 21 and Marcus Thigpen had 10 of his own. Tannehill also showed his mobility, adding 22 yards on the ground.
Miami's offensive line was able to hold up rather well, only allowing one sack to an effective pass rushing unit. Mike Pouncey's return certainly made an impact.
On defense, the Dolphins turned in arguably their best performance of the season. Three turnovers were forced, all of them by free agent signings; interceptions from Brent Grimes and Dannell Ellerbe and a fumble recovery by Philip Wheeler. Olivier Vernon made his presence felt with 2.5 of the Dolphins 4 sacks. The early pressure generated by Miami contributed to an awful performance by Jets quarterback Geno Smith who was replaced by Matt Simms at halftime.
The victory gives the Dolphins a realistic chance at a playoff berth while the Jets at 5-7 will likely need to win out to even have a shot.
As it stands, the 6-6 Dolphins will be the 7th seed in the AFC behind the 6-6 Ravens who are the 6th seed based on head to head record against the Dolphins. If Baltimore were to win the division, Miami holds the tiebreaker against the Bengals in addition to the Chargers which could end up proving to be crucial.
Next up, the Dolphins travel to Pittsburgh for a matchup with Wallace's former team, the Steelers, in another pivotal game.