The Dolphins are a game and half ahead in the standings and hoping to win their first division title since 2008.
The NFL’s first Black Friday game looked like a mismatch on paper and lived up to the hype — or lack thereof.
The Miami Dolphins outclassed the New York Jets in essentially every facet of Friday’s 34-13 victory, outgaining their division rival by more than 200 yards. The Dolphins harassed quarterback Tim Boyle throughout the day, sacking him seven times and intercepting him twice.
A late-game injury to Jaelan Phillips sent the sobbing linebacker back to the locker room on a cart.
Phillips suffered a non-contact leg injury midway through the fourth quarter and was ruled out with an Achilles injury. The 2021 first-round pick played in eight games this season and finished with a team-high 6.5 sacks.
On the other side of the ball, it was a game to forget for Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who turned the ball over three times, including a pick-six courtesy of Jets cornerback Brandin Echols. Miami finished with 395 yards, well below its season average of 435 yards per game, but more concerning is its second consecutive game with three turnovers.
Miami’s defense has rounded into form over the past month, but its offense is in need of a turnaround as it enters the final month of the regular season — especially considering how much it struggled at the end of the 2022 season.
The 8-3 Dolphins travel to Washington to play the Commanders next week, very much in the running for the AFC’s top seed with six games remaining in the season.
Pivotal play: With two seconds remaining in the first half, the Jets intercepted Tagovailoa and attempted a Hail Mary to capitalize on their newfound momentum. Instead, Dolphins safety Jevon Holland intercepted Boyle’s pass at the 1-yard line and returned it for a 99-yard touchdown. It took the air out of the Jets’ sideline and the game never felt close afterward.
QB breakdown: Tagovailoa was decisive and accurate for the most part, save his interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the first half. He was also credited with a fumble late in the fourth quarter. His 10 interceptions in 11 games this season have now tied a career-high and this is his second multiple-interception game of the season. Tagovailoa frequently tested the Jets’ vaunted secondary and as a result, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle each eclipsed 100 receiving yards. His final stat line — 21-for-30 for 243 yards, one TD and two INTs — is not particularly impressive, but he didn’t need to do much for Miami to beat a freefalling Jets team.
Promising trend: The Dolphins’ defense has forced nine turnovers in its past four games, recording 14 sacks in the process. Since the return of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, this unit has lived up to its preseason expectations — making Miami a dangerous team to watch during the final stretch of the regular season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: at Washington Commanders (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 3)
New York Jets
The Jets’ quarterback change did absolutely nothing to spark their moribund offense, but the new guy — Tim Boyle — did secure a place in Jets’ lore.
For the wrong reason.
Boyle’s Hail Mary at the end of the first half turned into a Hail Storm, as it was intercepted by Dolphins safety Jevon Holland and returned 99 yards for a touchdown that symbolized the Jets’ sad season. The Jets (4-7) have dropped four straight games, having scored 37 points in that span.
Boyle, a career backup who started for the ineffective Zach Wilson, was overmatched from the outset, as the offense failed to cross midfield until the fourth quarter and was unsuccessful on its first eight third-down attempts. Boyle passed for 179 yards and threw two interceptions, a predictable performance given the circumstances.
Clearly, the offensive issues go beyond the quarterback position. The offensive line, decimated by injuries, is broken. The receiving corps, save for Garrett Wilson, is devoid of front-line talent. And the playcalling by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is highly suspect.
Coach Robert Saleh could bench Boyle and turn to Trevor Siemian, but that wouldn’t solve anything. He could go back to Wilson, but the fan base would revolt. Let’s face it: It’s hopeless for the Jets, who are headed toward their 13th straight non-playoff season. Not even Aaron Rodgers, if he returns from his Achilles injury, can save them.
On Black Friday, the Jets went from historically inept to national laughingstock.
Pivotal play: Twenty-nine years ago this weekend, the Jets and Dolphins gave us the Fake Spike. This time, it was a Hail Mary that went haywire — the first pick-six on a Hail Mary since ESPN Stats & Information started tracking Hail Mary plays in 2006.
It was the perfect storm. Three wide receivers and a tight end went deep, leaving the Boyle, running back Breece Hall and the offensive linemen in position to make the tackle. It was a comedy of misses, as no fewer than six players made feeble attempts to bring down Holland.
The Jets have endured many inglorious moments in their star-crossed history. Let’s call this one a distant cousin of the Butt Fumble.
Troubling trend: The lack of playmakers at wide receiver is glaring. Allen Lazard, who signed a four-year, $44 million contract in free agency, was a healthy scratch after 10 unproductive games. That left Garrett Wilson, graybeard Randall Cobb and a bunch of former undrafted free agents — a failing of the front office. Cobb played four offensive snaps.
Troubling trend 2.0: Hall, one of the league’s most dynamic players through October, has disappeared. In the last six games, he has rushed for 182 yards — the byproduct of an ineffective offensive line. Without a running game, the quarterback (whoever it is) has no chance. The Jets started their eighth different offensive-line combination — a recipe for disaster. — Rich Cimini
Next game: vs. Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Thursday, Dec. 3)