Dolphins’ wildcat makes fish food out of Gang Green defense.
MIAMI – Last week, it was the rookie quarterback that was given a wake-up call in Gang Green’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Tonight, the harsh dose of reality was issued to the defense, the trash-talking, brash unit that until tonight seemed nearly impenetrable.
The side of the football that has been Rex Ryan’s staple was dominated by an unproven quarterback and a gimmick offense Monday night, with the Miami Dolphins using the Wildcat formation and the steady hand of qb Chad Henne (20-26, 241 yards with two touchdowns) to gash the vaunted Jets defense for 31 points and 313 total yards – 151 of them on the ground – en route to an upset 31-27 victory in Miami.
It was about as an unchacteristic a performance as you could imagine from a defense that allowed just 10 points to the New Orleans Saints, the best offense in the NFL, eight days ago. Coach Ryan’s Baltimore Ravens defense had shutdown Miami’s Wildcat offense twice in 2008, so it seemed a mortal lock that his new squad would do the same on this night.
But the Dolphins used a variety of wrinkles within the Wildcat formation, providing enough looks to dominate the Jets’ D from the opening whistle and eventually score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the victory. Suddenly an aggressive, punishing defense was reduced to a unit being thrown around for 60 minutes, unable to shed blockers or get to the quarterback, virtually helpless to stop the onslaught of running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Brown got the scoring started at the halfway mark of the first quarter, when he notched his first touchdown run of the game to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead. The cushion would be short-lived as newly-acquired wide receiver Braylon Edwards made his presence felt early on in his first game as a Jet, catching a Mark Sanchez pass in the back of the end zone and scraping his feet in bounds for the six.
Miami would take a 10-7 lead in the final minute of the first quarter, when Dan Carpenter connected on a 35-yard field goal. Jets kicker Jay Feely answered with two field goals of his own in the second quarter, connecting from 40 and 43 yards to give Gang Green a 13-10 lead in the final seconds of the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the AFC East rivals exploded for five touchdowns in the final 15 minutes of play. The first came just 47 seconds into the frame, when Henne hit tight end Anthony Fasano on a play-action rollout pass to give the Fins a 17-13 lead. Sanchez and the Jets responded on the very next series, as he hit wide receiver David Clowney on a deep ball that brought Gang Green deep into Dolphin territory. After an Intentional Grounding penalty, Sanchez once again found Edwards near the goal line, this time lofting a ball for his new target down the sideline and watching the wideout make a highlight reel catch at the pylon, falling out of bounds between two defenders inside the one yard line. Running back Thomas Jones would punch it in from there, putting the Jets back on top 20-17.
But Henne wasted little time as he exposed an uncharacteristic breakdown in coverage by Darrelle Revis, hitting receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on a 53-yard bomb that swung the lead back in favor of the Dolphins for the second time in the quarter at 24-20. Sanchez, who finished 12-24 for 172 yards and a touchdown, engineered yet another touchdown drive, culminating in Jones’ second score of the quarter and putting the Jets on the brink of victory with a 27-24 victory. It figured to be a wrap at this point – five minutes to go and a defense that even though they had been handled so far, seemed poised to get the stop they needed to secure the win.
But the Dolphins saved their final wrinkle for the game’s crucial minutes as rookie quarterback Pat White, unused in the Wildcat formation through the first four weeks, emerged to lead the dolphins on the final series of the game and get the offense started on the game-winning drive. Henne eventually took over, using his outstanding accuracy to convert several huge throws on the drive, moving the Dolphins down to the Jets one. Brown secured the victory with a keeper from a yard out to secure the 31-27 victory with six seconds to play, dropping the Jets to 3-2 on the young season.
Edwards was outstanding in his Jets debut, grabbing five balls for 64 yards and a touchdown. David Clowney also had a solid night, pulling down four balls for 78 yards. On defense, linebacker Bart Scott lead the team with 10 total tackles, nine of them solo.
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