Monday, December 13, 2010

Dolphins vs. Jets: Mark Sanchez Fails to Muster More Late-Game Magic

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A week after their merciless butt-whooping at the hands of New England, the Jets returned to their old ways -- taking matters down to the wire with the ball in quarterback Mark Sanchez's hands.
Much like on Monday, New York suffered a loss to a division rival, with Sanchez hitting the turf on fourth down with 47 seconds left to seal a 10-6 Dolphins win. The Jets struggled with Miami's defensive line as Cameron Wake and Kendall Langford terrorized Sanchez all day.
Instead of going for it on fourth and long, Rex Ryan elected to send Nick Folk out to hit a 43-yard field goal with 5:21 left that narrowed the defecit to 10-6. New York would then force a three-and-out, punt and stop Miami again moments later -- allowing Sanchez one more chance with just over two minutes remaining.
The Dolphins (7-6) improved to 6-1 on the road while the Jets (9-4) dropped their second straight game.
Some thoughts on the game:            
• Sanchez picked up right where he left off in last Monday's humiliating loss at New England. He should have been picked off three times in the first half but Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith dropped two early Christmas gifts, and he fumbled the ball twice in the first half, losing one.
• On the other side of the ball, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne was doing a better job of protecting the ball until the Jets' Calvin Pace crushed him from the blind side. The ball flew out and was recovered by New York, but the offense only managed a field goal.
• Santonio Holmes let a golden opportunity drop through his hands -- or bounce off his face mask -- when he was running wide open in the end zone in the second quarter, failing to catch a Sanchez pass.
• Neither team's running game could muster much on the ground, but Miami's Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and fullback Lousaka Polite did enough to extend some drives and keep the Jets offense off the field.

• Despite the rain and some crazy wind conditions, the punters were very effective. By the end of the third quarter New York's Steve Weatherford had punted seven times and Miami's Brandon Fields six times, with Fields launching moon shots into the wind over 50 and 60 yards. He had two 62-yarders, a 61-yarder and a 64-yarder called back because of penalty. To start the fourth quarter, Fields hit one 69 yards for Miami, and then came back with a 56-yarder that hit Jerricho Cotchery where he stood at his own 7. Weatherford was doing his damage with coffin corner kicks, pinning the Dolphins inside their own 20 time after time in a game of field position.

• Former Dolphins outside linebacker Jason Taylor made his presence known in this game by recovering a fumble from Brown, almost coming up with an interception in pass coverage. He showed a lot of emotion from the beginning when he went to midfield as a team captain and New York won the toss.

• Early in the fourth quarter it was hard to tell which team wanted it more, and this was a must-win for both. Miami needed it to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Jets needed it to rebound from the loss to New England and stay a game back of the Patriots for the AFC East title. The one clear theme of this game was stingy defense on both sides.

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