Dolphins Watch

December 12, 2010 7:40 PM

Defense lifts Dolphins over Jets

WAKE1.bmpThis was the type of game I expected the first time these two teams met in Miami: Smashmouth football, with lots of running the ball and plenty of defense.

The elements had something to do with the final 10-6 score, as the temperature was down to 52 degrees and the rain played havoc with the football.

But another element that can't be ignored is the bad quarterback play on both sides.

Chad Henne was simply awful Sunday, and it seemed that at times he was trying to hand the game to the Jets.

With the Dolphins driving and needing only a field goal to ice the game, Henne inexplicably let the ball roll off his fingers on a handoff attempt, leading to a Jets recovery. It was the last time Miami threatened the rest of the game.

Henne completed just 5-of-18 passes for 55 yards, but he threw no interceptions, and made the biggest play of the game when he hit Brandon Marshall on a quick out in the end zone for a 6-yard TD pass in the first quarter to stake Miami to a 10-0 lead.

From then on, Mike Nolan's defense dominated, allowing the Jets just two field goals, and stopping them three times on fourth down. Fittingly, on the Jets' last offensive play of the game, outside linebacker Cameron Wake dragged quarterback Mark Sanchez down for Miami's fifth sack.

It was Wake's second sack of the game, stretching his NFL-leading total to 14, and indicative of how dominant he and the other members of the defensive line were against the Jets.

Miami allowed the Jets no running room, holding them to 81 rushing yards, and forced the game into Sanchez's hands time and again.

When Wake, Kendall Langford and Paul Soliai weren't collapsing the pocket, the pass defense allowed Sanchez's receivers little room to work with.

Sanchez was not much better than he had been in New England, raising serious doubts about the Jets' quarterback of the future.

The grim totals: 17-of-44, 216 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT.

Nolan Carroll had the lone pick, which set up the Dolphins' first score of the game on a field goal, and by my count, Sean Smith dropped at least four passes that could have been interceptions.

To be fair, at times Sanchez didn't have the best help, most notably when Santonio Holmes toasted Carroll and was all alone in the end zone, yet let the ball bounce off his hands for an incompletion, setting up the Jet's first field goal.

Jerricho Cotchery, and even the sure-handed LaDainian Tomlinson also dropped passes, but Sanchez was not very accurate at all. The Dolphins forced three fumbles in addition to the lone interception, in the defense's best performance since holding the Bills and Vikings to 20 combined points in the first two games of the season.

And who can forget the contributions of punter Brandon Fields, the Dolphins' best weapon Sunday? Fields dug the Dolphins offense out of a hole again and again, averaging 56.4 yards per kick, and pinning the Jets deep in their own end on their final two drives.

But as has been the case the past two games -- and since Henne's return against Oakland two weeks ago -- the offense could not capitalize on the many opportunities the defense and Fields gave it.

Marshall caught just one pass aside from his TD, and the Dolphins' offensive line was unable to open many holes for Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, as the Dolphins ran for just 56 yards. The leaky line also gave up five sacks, though Henne was partly to blame on at least three of them for holding the ball too long.

The enigma that is Henne continues to baffle, as Sunday was one of the worst QB performances I've seen by a Dolphins player since I began watching the team 24 years ago, and that includes the lowlights of Ray Lucas, A.J. Feeley, Jay Fielder and John Beck.

Henne needs to pick it up with Buffalo coming to town, and Miami needs to win the following weeks against Detroit and New England and get help to make the playoffs.

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