Dolphins clinch final AFC playoff berth, Jets offense struggles again in 11-6 season finale loss

MIAMI GARDENS — The Jets already knew they would be spending the playoffs at home following Sunday’s season finale.

Their objective was to make sure the Dolphins would be joining them on the couch, as with a win and some help, they could be in the playoffs.

In a defensive battle, Miami came out on top.

Dolphins (9-8) defeated the Jets (7-10), 11-6 after a late safety to snap a five-game losing streak on a 79-degree, mostly sunny day at Hard Rock Stadium in front of 66,429 fans.

Gang Green lost its sixth consecutive game to end the season and had to see the Dolphins celebrate making the playoff for the first time since 2016. Miami will play at Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs.

“It’s unfortunate the way it ended, obviously, with not getting in the playoffs,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said.

“Starting 7-4, but we asked the guys to fight and they absolutely fought all the way to the end and give credit to Miami, they are going to the playoffs. But gave them a run.”

Joe Flacco started his fourth game of the season after Mike White was sidelined due to a reaggravated rib injury sustained in last weekend’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Flacco finished 18-of-33 for 149 yards.

Sunday might have been Flacco’s final start of his 15-year career. He will be an unrestricted free agent during the offseason and it is unclear if Flacco will continue playing.

The Jets offense has struggled in recent weeks as they have not scored a touchdown since their Week 15 loss against the Lions. It is a disappointing finish for the Jets as they began December 7-4 in one of the top seven seeds in the AFC. But a six-game losing streak ended all of their hopes as they finished in last place in their division for the third straight season.

“We lost games in December that could have set us up for a playoff spot,” Flacco said. “This team is about getting up off the turf and seeing what it can do. We didn’t ultimately do that and accomplish our goal of winning the game.

“Proud of how our guys fought on both sides of the ball and how we played today. A lot of times in the NFL, we don’t play in pretty games. Not every game has to look pretty. It can be tough and still be a good football game and I think that’s a lot of what happened today.”

The Dolphins also were missing their starting quarterback as Tua Tagovailoa missed his second consecutive game due to a concussion he suffered against the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day.

With Teddy Bridgewater also out because of a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand, rookie Skylar Thompson started the second game of his career. Thompson completed 20-of-31 passes for 152 yards.

Both offenses struggled to get much of anything going. The Jets had just 102 yards of total offense at halftime compared to 149 for the Dolphins.

Following 25 minutes of scoreless football, the Jets attempted to get points on the board early in the second quarter. However, Greg Zuerlein’s 55-yard field goal attempt was no good.

The Dolphins began the drive with excellent field position on their 45-yard line. Miami drove down to Gang Green’s 19 before settling for a 37-yard field goal by Jason Sanders, giving them a 3-0 advantage.

The Jets responded by getting as far as the Dolphins 14-yard line. However, the team had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Zuerlein, which tied the game.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Dolphins retook the lead, 6-3, after Sanders’ 37-yard field goal. Following a 14-play, 73-yard drive, the Jets tied the game when Zuerlein converted a 35-yard field goal with 11:59 left in the fourth quarter.

Both teams continued to struggle offensively in the final minutes. A horse collar penalty by Quincy Williams put the Dolphins in enemy territory. That put them well in Sanders’ range as he kicked a 50-yard field goal to win the game.

The Jets had one last chance to win the game late with time expiring. As they lateraled the ball a few times, Elijah Moore fumbled as it was recovered by Garrett Wilson and he was tackled in the end zone resulting in a safety.

“It was a fast season,” Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “You think about last year, it was probably one of the longest season we’ve had with the record, with the injuries and just trying to finish with everything we had in the last game of the season.

“Now that it is over, it’s a lot to look at. A lot of good stuff for us to look at as a defense, as a team. There’s a lot of stuff to improve and get better.

“Obviously, these last five, six weeks there’s a lot of stuff we can look int to see where we really improve and be better going into the season. I don’t think anybody in our building should be hanging their head down. Obviously, we are all disappointed, we had a goal in mind, but it just didn’t work out.”