It took them until the fourth quarter to get things right, but the Miami Dolphins managed to overcome a rotten New York Jets team and get a 16-13 win. It was ugly. It was brutal. It was not fun to watch (until the very end). But when it was all said and done, the Dolphins are not only 7-5 but have snagged that final wild card slot for the moment.
It's crazy to think about it, but Miami is very much in the driver's seat going forward. No need to root for other teams to win or lose or tie or blow up or move to Canada to get a playoff spot.
If the Dolphins want in, they just have to win.
Here are five things we learned from last night's beatdown of the hated Jets:
1. The Dolphins Are All Schizo, and It's Driving Us All Nuts All season long, the Dolphins have been a team that has been both really good and refried ass. Monday night was no exception. The first half saw Miami get dominated by one of the worst teams in the NFL. The defense couldn't stop the run, the offense couldn't get first downs, the linebackers kept getting plowed, and the kicker was terrible. Yet the second half showed us a better team. The offense clicked, the defense held its ground, and the kicker ended up kicking the game-winner. This team has always made fans want to light a pillowcase full of kittens on fire. Now it's a team that makes fans want to light a pillowcase of kittens on fire, then douse it with water from the fishbowl. The Dolphins are currently atop the playoff picture, tied with roughly 7,939 other teams in the AFC. But if the Dolphins want to not only get that final wildcard spot but also be successful in the playoffs, they're going to have to knock it off with the Jekyll and Hyde routine.
2. The Defense Remains a Concern, While Also Remaining Awesome? Sticking with the Jekyll and Hyde theme: The DEFENSE! The Miami defense has been the epitome of two-face. But unlike the Batman villain, it tends to bounce back and kick balls when necessary. Still, the D gave up 210 first-half yards to the Jets on the ground and basically resurrected Chris Johnson for one night. And more times than we care to admit, it kept forgetting this is not flag football.
Last week, the defense allowed Broncos seventh-string running back C.J. Anderson to run for 167 yards. This week, it was all of the Jets' running backs running for all of the yards.
Sure, the defense stiffened up and allowed only 67 yards in the second half. But that had a lot to do with the fact that the Jets were petrified to let Geno Smith throw the football. Against better teams, the defense is going to have to stop all of the sucking and get its shit together.3. Ryan Tannehill Continues to Show His Balls
OK, the bad news first: Ryan Tannehill still has zero pocket awareness. OK, maybe not zero. Let's say one. He has one pocket awareness. He still tends to lock in on receivers and completely ignore wide-open guys on the other side of the field. He still holds on to the ball a tad too long when the pass rush is coming. And his deep balls still look like he's throwing a ziplock bag filled with piss.
HOWEVER. Tannehill does have strengths. His short passes are insanely accurate. He's tough as nails. He throws darts (albeit short ones), and he's learning how to move the offense. Vanilla Thunder has balls, and that's really all you can ask for from a QB with plenty of limitations.
Tannehill has the annoying habit of throwing frozen ropes one play and being a blundering idiot the next. But he's getting it done and has a high QB rating for those who give a rat's ass about that kind of thing.
Most important, he's not turning the ball over (although he almost threw two picks last night), and he's moving the offense. This Dolphins offense is on pace to score 400 points on the season, which is something that a Dolphins offense has not done since Dan Marino was slinging the rock and wrecking faces.
4. The Offensive Line Is So Much Better This offensive line has had plenty of reasons to fold and suck again -- particularly because of injuries. But it's deep, and it's talented, and it's doing a really good job of opening gaps for Lamar Miller and not getting Tannehill murdered.
Once again: It took new GM Dennis Hickey just one offseason to fix what Jeff Ireland kept ruining for eight years.5. Every Game From Now on Will Be "Season Defining"
If you thought last night was nerve-wracking or made you want to throw up in your pants, whoa, that's nothing. The Dolphins are pretty much in WIN EVERY GAME FROM NOW ON FOREVARRR mode. This thanks to the sixty-billion-team-tie for that final wild card spot. This means every game from this point on is like a playoff game. Lose this week to Baltimore and all the superterrific happy time of beating the Jets goes right into the toilet, along with our hearts. The Dolphins have an innate ability to crush our souls like that compacter above -- every year. So, while this is the best Dolphins team we've seen in years, it's still the Dolphins. And heartache is a fumble or a missed field goal or a back-breaking interception away.
The Dolphins' remaining schedule is as follows: Baltimore, at the Patriots, the Vikings, and the Jets at home. Either of those games could mean elation or wanting to tap your nuts with a ball-peen hammer.
WHAT'S IT GONNA BE, TWO-FACE?
/flips coin //dies
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 2, 2014
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