It was the best game of Chris Johnson's first season with the Jets -- 105 yards rushing on 17 carries as part of a running game that totaled a whopping 277 yards. But when the Jets had to have points at the end of the game to overcome Miami's 16-13 lead Monday night at MetLife Stadium, Johnson wasn't on the field and quarterback Geno Smith suddenly found himself in desperation mode.
As much as the Jets would like to believe the ground-and-pound approach they took against the Dolphins worked superbly, it underlined an NFL axiom that says teams have to run to win but they have to pass to score points.
When that was repeated to wide receiver Eric Decker, who caught two of Smith's seven completions, he nodded and said, "One hundred percent. The way we were running the ball, we've got to get play-action off it. [The Dolphins' defenders] were all committing to the run. I thought we could have taken a chance. I'm not the offensive coordinator, but you still have to have a good passing game."
Coming into a game in which Smith was starting for the first time since his three-interception debacle against Buffalo on Oct. 26, the Jets knew they were going to run. They were effective from the start, mixing in several wide receiver reverses with the running of Johnson, who broke a 47-yarder that set up a 20-yard touchdown by Greg Salas on a reverse for a 7-0 lead, and Chris Ivory, who had 62 yards on 16 carries.
"The offensive line was pushing those guys around," Johnson said. "They were giving all the running backs, not just myself, lanes to run. But the main thing is that we didn't get the victory."
Earlier this season, Johnson chafed at not getting enough carries after signing as a free agent after what many consider a Hall of Fame career with Tennessee. So the chance to carry the load for the offense was welcome indeed. "That's the most fun I've had all year," he said. "But it puts a damper on it at the end of the day because we didn't get the victory . . . We feel we could have been doing this all year, but we still didn't make enough plays. We've got to turn three points into six points."
That might have been a reference to the Jets' second-quarter field goal for a 10-0 lead. They had third-and-3 at the Miami 22, and Bilal Powell lost a yard. That's the kind of place where Smith easily might have been expected to pass aggressively for the first down, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg chose the conservative route.
"You can say 'what if' and analyze everything," Decker said. "We haven't done enough to win. Today we played well but got beat."
It was a tough loss for everyone on the offensive side of the ball to swallow, considering they controlled the ball for 32:35. "We established dominance," guard Willie Colon said. "I believe we could have done that all year. Give us the keys to the Cadillac, and that's the result."
Colon wasn't about to second-guess Mornhinweg's decision to limit Smith to 13 pass attempts (plus two sacks) versus 49 handoffs. "Marty called a great game," he said. "Everything we wanted to do, we did. We just didn't put enough points up."
That was the problem in a nutshell. Even when they run well, the Jets don't score enough to win.