When I was a kid, and we played football on 20 yards of trampled-on grass between two driveways, you weren’t allowed to run the ball … unless, of course, the defense crossed the line of scrimmage after the 5-Mississippi count. All plays were passing plays, because running the ball was simply too easy.
The Jets took the opposite tack last night at MetLife Stadium against the Miami Dolphins, but they did so for the same reason. The Jets ran the ball on almost every play -- 49 rushing attempts in all, compared to just 13 passes -- because it was so easy.
Even as the Fins stacked the box with nearly every defender they had, Gang Green QB Geno Smith continued to hand the ball off to Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory and Percy Harvin, with Jeremy Kerley and Greg Salas also carrying it on successful trick plays. By the end of the first half, the home team had racked up 210 yards, and held a 7-point lead over their hated rivals, who are in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Jets’ run-blocking may have been effective, but, on the rare occasions when Smith dropped back, Gang Green’s pass-blocking was essentially nonexistent. Smith seldom had time to throw, and when he was able to get the ball off, the struggling QB’s passes were often inaccurate and rarely for substantial gains. Only one went for more than 11 yards.
In a game largely devoid of big plays -- with the notable exceptions of Chris Johnson’s 47-yard scamper; Dolphin Dion Jordan’s partial block of a Ryan Quigley punt; and, on the following play, Darrin Walls’ interception on a deflected pass from Ryan Tannehill -- Nick Folk’s missed field goals stood out.
Folk came into last night’s game having only missed on two field goal attempts all season, and had been perfect from 40 to 49-yard range, which was like a second home for the Jets kicker against Miami.
However, only one of his four kicks made it through the uprights cleanly, as another got a lucky bounce on the crossbar before making it over and two others went wide left -- including one that would’ve put the Jets up by 3 with less than 6 minutes to go.
A few minutes after that last miss, Tannehill led the Fins on a game-winning drive in which he completed all but one of his five passes. Like Smith, the third-year quarterback hasn’t shown much accuracy on deep balls. But, as opposed to the Jets QB, Tannehill has proved good enough when he needs to be.
Smith, who basically wasn’t asked to make a play all game, needed to do so in the end. Down 16-13 with just under two minutes to go, he had one last shot to tie or win the game. But his last pass -- a 30-yard toss intended for TE Jeff Cumberland -- never had a chance and got picked off by Miami’s Reshard Jones.
2-10 isn’t pretty. But it’s a pretty accurate representation of the Jets’ sorry season.