Two year ago the Miami Dolphins succeeded in knocking the New York Jets out of the playoffs in the final game of the season at Sun Life Stadium, but today the tables were turned on the same field.
New York pulled out a 20-7 victory on an overcast South Florida day to stop Miami’s run to the postseason, riding the arm and legs of rookie quarterback Geno Smith. With the loss the Dolphins finished at 8-8, one game better than last season, but were left to wonder about what might have been after losing their last two games.
“Sad. That was a bad loss and a whole team loss,” said wide receiver Mie Wallace, who caught five passes for 25 yards and the lone touchdown. “It’s a bad feeling when you know you gad your own destiny in your hands and you let it slip away twice. That’s bad. I feel like we had energy but we didn’t enough. They had a lot more energy than our team today and we had a lot of chances but we didn’t capitalize on any of them.”
The Dolphins actually led early in the game on the strength of second-year quarterback ’s Ryan Tannehill 5-yard scoring pass to Wallace. That capped off the longest scoring drive of the season of the offense, one that covered 89 yards on 14 plays in 6:56 and included a 25-yard pass to Brian Hartline to put him over 1,000 receiving yards for the second straight season.
But Smith answered after the two teams exchanged punts with an efficient drive of his own, taking the Jets 71 yards on 10 plays in 5:21. Big defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run and then Smith ended the half with an 11-play, 70-yard drive, running the last seven yards himself into the end zone to give the Jets a 14-7 lead at the half.
“It’s tough and a hard pill to swallow,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. “It’s got to be ingrained in you hard enough that you don’t let it happen to you again. When you had goals set and you don’t meet them it’s disheartening but you’ve got to take this feeling and you’ve got to let it really brand you here and leave a mark on you inside.”
Three second-half interceptions by Tannehill and a physical running game employed by the Jets did Miami in down the stretch, with a trick play mixed in. Running back Bilal Powell’s 30-yard pass to David Nelson out of the Wildcat set up Nick Folk’s 34-yard field goal that made it a 10-point lead and then Ed Reed’s interception off a deflection set up Folk’s second field goal to close out the scoring. His final interception was to Milliner with a little over a minute left;
Tannehill ended up competing 20-of-40 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions and his leading receiver in terms of catches was Wallace with five for 25 yards and in terms of yards it was Rishard Matthews with four catches for 58 yards. Second-year running back Lamar Miller finished with 73 yards on 17 carries to lead the team in that category, but the disappointment on Tannehill’s face in his postgame press conference.
“The ball was in our court and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity,” said Tannehill, who finished the season completing 355-of-588 passes for 3,913 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. “We just didn’t make plays all day. We had opportunities in all facets of the offensive game and we just didn’t make plays. We didn’t finish strong, plain and simple. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to and obviously none of us saw this coming.”
Head Coach Joe Philbin did see a one-game improvement from his rookie season of 2012 but making it to the playoffs was the goal and he didn’t get to see that happen.
“You have to earn your way into the playoffs. Clearly we didn’t do that,” Philbin said. “Certainly that was the objective. I thought we would have played better. I have to start with myself. We didn’t play well enough to win and earn a spot in the playoffs. You never back into a great achievement. We didn’t earn it and we’re not going.”
By Andy Kent