BY SEAN DONOVAN
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle drew up a gameplan designed to confuse Mark Sanchez and eliminate his favorite targets. This, along with Miami's stout early-down run defense, was a riddle the Jets were unable to solve all day.
Coyle's strategy was executed to near-perfection from the get-go, and the Dolphins didn't need long to put the game out of reach because of it.
After scoring a field goal on their opening drive, the Dolphins kicked and recovered a surprise onside kick to win another possession. But Miami not only went three-and-out and punted the ball away to the Jets, it would lose its blossoming rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the process.
Down 3-0 and finally on the field, Sanchez and the Jets' offense had a chance to respond to the Dolphins' quick start.
After fruitless plays on first and second down, New York lined up in the shotgun. Miami rushed four on this play, and Sanchez had one-on-one coverage across the board. Dolphins safety Reshad Jones shaded over the right side of the formation, where both of the Jets' top targets Dustin Keller and Jeremy Kerley were lined up in the slot.
After the snap, Sanchez was given plenty of time to survey the field. New York's five offensive lineman held back Miami's pass rushers and afforded Keller plenty of time to beat his coverage. Sanchez found him underneath for a 13-yard gain on third down.
This demonstrated what Sanchez would be able to do when not facing pressure while his receivers have nearly four seconds to beat their respective one-on-one matchups.
In the next series of downs, Miami did a much better job of mixing up the looks for Sanchez.
Facing a third-and-7, New York again lined up in the shotgun. Again, Keller and Kerley were bunched in the slot, this time to the left.
The Dolphins showed six pass rushers and man coverage on the outside. Defensive back Jimmy Wilson was lined up in press on Kerley, but Keller was left with a free release to the middle, where only safety Chris Clemons would be in coverage.
Right after the snap, Miami blitzers Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby instead dropped back into zone coverage. Wilson, instead of pressing Kerley, blitzed from the slot cornerback position.
Sanchez looked to his left, eyeing Keller on a 10-yard stop pattern, which was now unexpectedly covered by Dansby. Wilson was now an unaccounted-for pass rusher and had a clear path to Sanchez.
Additionally, the Jets' other receivers were all running deep patterns and Miami's defenders were in good position. Sanchez had no option but to take the sack.
On the very next play, Wilson, now on special teams, blocked a punt and the Dolphins went on to score a touchdown to go up 10-0.
The game was slowly getting away from New York, but it would get another chance on offense to swing the momentum back their direction.
Now in a first-and-10 situation on their own 37-yard line, the Jets lined up in a weak-I formation. The Dolphins countered with their base 4-3 package, with four down pass rushers.
At the snap, Sanchez turned around for a (poorly-executed) play-action fake and dropped back to pass. Nolan Carroll, the Dolphins' boundary cornerback on the left side of the formation, blitzed from his corner position.
The rest of the Dolphins defenders fell back into zone coverage.
Another wrinkle was the Dolphins' front-four all stunting to the left, drawing blocking back Lex Hilliard slightly further to the inside and giving Carroll a clearer path the the quarterback.
Again, the Jets' receivers would run longer routes, giving Miami's exotic blitz call plenty of time to work.
Sanchez pump-faked, decided not to throw downfield and finally looked for his checkdown option Shonn Greene. But Greene took too long to release, and Carroll hit Sanchez to force a fumble.
Miami would recover and convert the short field into a Daniel Thomas 3-yard touchdown run to go up by 17 points.
The Jets never found themselves within realistic striking distance again for the remainder of the afternoon. The Dolphins played well in every phase of the contest, but it was their superb defensive gameplan that kept the Jets from even having a chance to be competitive.
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