MIAMI, FL — Someone should tell Rex Ryan that karma has a way of coming back around.
After guaranteeing in Indianapolis during the 2011 NFL Combine that his Jets would be back there to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February, the only thing Rex Ryan could guarantee on Sunday was that they’d all be watching Super Bowl XLVI from the comfort of their own homes.
For the third straight year the Jets found themselves fighting for their playoff lives, but against the rivaled Miami Dolphins the Jets couldn’t fight their way out of the corner, losing 19-17 at Sun Life Stadium failing to fulfill their gregarious coach’s guarantee of yet another playoff push.
Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions, the last coming in their own red zone with his team rallying to take the late lead. But after jumping out to a 10-6 lead in the first half the momentum shifted towards the Dolphins way after capitalizing on a demoralizing 21-play, 94-yard drive that chewed up 12 and a half minutes for their only touchdown on the day.
Ryan, who looked defeated and deflated after the game, would not back down from his marked propensity of over-zealousness.
“I’m always going to chase the Super Bowl,” Ryan said. “I know I get criticized for it beyond belief, but if you don’t, then you’re probably a loser, OK? I’m not a loser.”
The Jets (8-8) end the season as losers of three straight games after, seemingly, having control of their own playoff destiny. But in order to reach the playoffs for a third straight year they needed to beat the Dolphins and hope for three other teams, the Bengals, Titans and Raiders, to lose. Instead the loss thwarts any hopes of reaching the AFC Championship game for a third straight year.
An underlying headline of the game occurred on the Jets final drive of the game where receiver and first-year team captain, Santonio Holmes, was benched for the rest of the game after getting into a heated exchanged with an unknown teammate in the huddle. LaDanain Tomlinson, who surpassed Jerome Bettis for fifth all-time on the career rushing list with 13,684 yards, said teammates were displeased with the receiver’s display of effort, demeanor and body language.
“It’s tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner,” Tomlinson said. “You’ve got to lead by example, and you’ve got to play your tail off until the last play.”
On the day Holmes was targeted only once, drawing a defensive holding penalty. He was held without a catch for the first time in 88-game career.
As a microcosm for the season, the Jets proved to be their biggest foe on Sunday, losing the turnover battle at costly times. Each of Sanchez’s three turnovers led to field goals. For the year the Jets lost the turnover battle, allowing 126 points off turnovers, the worst in the NFL — a very telling stat as to why they missed the playoffs in 2011.
At Miami’s 10-yard line with three minutes left and the Jets trailing 16-10, linebacker Marvin Mitchell stepped in front of an underneath pass intended for Shonn Greene. Mitchell took the interception 55 yards that set up the game-sealing field goal by Dan Carpenter. All three of Sanchez’s interceptions came on check down passes, two intercepted by linemen — a rarity in the NFL. Ryan would later say in his press conference that the interceptions proved to be “back-breakers” for his team.
“You can always work on fundamentals, your footwork and reinforce the good things we did. … It’s just the consistency part that’s got to get better,” Sanchez said of his performance after the game.
On the ensuing drive just 30 seconds later, Jason Taylor picked up a fumble by lineman Matt Slauson and scoring. The play sent the scarce Dolphin faithful in to a frenzy, but would eventually be overturned by a booth review. Taylor, in his 15th and final season of the NFL, spent the 2010-11 season with the Jets and is the NFL’s active leader in sacks.
The Jets scored with just over a minute to go on a 10-yard pass to Patrick Turner, who replaced the malcontent Holmes. But Brandon Marshall secured the following onside kick to secure the victory. Taylor lined up at running back in Miami’s victory formation and was carried off the field as the game came to a close.
The loss caps a season filled with inconsistency and in-house finger-pointing and sets up an off-season that will undoubtedly be filled with reflection, retooling and recalibrating a team topped with turmoil.
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