‘Just shaking off rust': Dolphins' defense comes alive in second half, shuts down Jets

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  • Christian Wilkins
    Christian Wilkins
    American football player
  • Braxton Berrios
    Braxton Berrios
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Tua Tagovailoa
    Tua Tagovailoa
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Brian Flores
    Brian Flores
    American football coach

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MIAMI GARDENS — The good part about having a bye week, Christian Wilkins was saying, is it gives you a chance to get off your feet.

Unfortunately for Wilkins and the rest of the Dolphins’ defense, the bad part about a bye week is what can happen when it’s over.

The Dolphins experienced that Sunday, playing 30 minutes of their sloppiest defensive football in ages against the Jets and teetering on sunset arriving with them knowing their playoff hopes, like the sky, had faded to black.

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Except 30 minutes of football remained, and in those final 30 minutes, Miami’s defense looked like Miami’s defense is supposed to look, and the Dolphins came away with a 31-24 victory and playoff hopes alive.

“We were just shaking off rust I guess,” said Wilkins, a defensive tackle who aided the rally by moonlighting on offense and catching a 1-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter. “And we did a good job of making adjustments and everybody just stuck with it. We kind of dug ourselves a little bit of a hole but that’s what’s good about this team. We always stick together.”

Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker sacks Jets quarterback Zach Wilson during  the first half of Sunday's win at Hard Rock Stadium. Baker added a second sack in the second half and finished with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits.
Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker sacks Jets quarterback Zach Wilson during the first half of Sunday's win at Hard Rock Stadium. Baker added a second sack in the second half and finished with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits.

The Jets “threw the kitchen sink at us,” coach Brian Flores said, referring to a barrage of gadget plays, including one that produced a 2-yard touchdown run by receiver Braxton Berrios on an option play.

New York led 17-10 at halftime. The Jets piled up 174 yards in the first half but managed 54 in the second, including just 17 through the air. In the second half, the Dolphins had five sacks, allowed three first downs and stopped New York on every third down except one, making up for the absence of safety Jevon Holland, who was ill.

In the buildup to the game, Flores admitted that a team mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, which the Jets are, might be apt to run more trick plays. It’s one thing to know they’re coming, another thing to stop them.

That was especially true of a 23-yard gain in the second quarter that involved quarterback Zach Wilson throwing to Jamison Crowder, who lateraled to Berrios to net 23 yards. It slightly resembled the Dolphins’ famous hook-and-lateral play against the Chargers in the 1982 playoffs, except Crowder and Berrios were far apart, prompting the CBS announcers to say they’d probably never seen the play executed that way.

“If you’ve never seen them, you really can’t prepare for them,” Flores said of the gadget plays.

New York was shut out in the second half except for a pick-6 thrown by Tua Tagovailoa. Nothing Miami’s defense could do about that.

Flores credited coordinator Josh Boyer and the defensive staff for halftime adjustments.

“We just could never get anything going,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “If you want to get drives going, you got to be good on third down and extend drives, and that's just something we weren't doing in the second half. You know, they did a good job getting the man coverage and all that stuff, which is the best way just playing with good eye discipline.”

After the Dolphins took a 24-17 lead on Wilkins’ touchdown, the defense flexed its muscle. Zach Sieler recorded a strip-sack-fumble against Wilson, which Emmanuel Ogbah recovered. The next series was torpedoed by a 10-yard sack by Jerome Baker.

“Everybody was feeding off each other,” linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel said.

By game’s end, Baker had seven tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Other sacks were by Brandon Jones, Van Ginkel and Ogbah.

“We started off a little slow, coming off the bye,” Ogbah said. “We were a little sluggish. But we can’t start off slow like that anymore. We’ve just got to start off fast every game and we’ve got to keep getting better together.”

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Dolphins defense shuts down NY Jets in second half

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