MIAMI - MIAMI - The Jets pride themselves on having one of the league's top defenses, a unit they consider the team's backbone.
The offense staked the defense to three fourth-quarter leads last night against the Dolphins. All the defense had to do was put the clamps down just once, and the Jets would've left steamy South Florida victorious.
Ronnie Brown scored on a 2-yard run up the middle with six seconds remaining, concluding a 70-yard drive and sending the Jets to a gut-wrenching 31-27 defeat at Land Shark Stadium.
The Jets' defense squandered two short touchdown runs by Thomas Jones, each of which gave the Jets a lead, and surrendered three fourth-quarter touchdowns to erase Jets leads of 13-10, 20-17 and 27-24.
"It was a complete embarrassment by our defense and by me,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Obviously, we've got to prepare better. I never had the defense prepared like they should be. I'll take full responsibility for that. I've never been involved in a game like that in my life. Our offense played tremendous and gave us every opportunity to win the game. We had a chance to get off the field and never did. Just a horrendous, horrendous day for our defense.''
Miami quarterback Chad Henne hit tight end Anthony Fasano with a 2-yard pass to put the Dolphins up 17-13 in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Less than four minutes later, after the Jets regained the lead on Jones' 1-yard run, Henne connected with Ted Ginn on a 53-yard strike over Darrelle Revis to put Miami up 24-20.
Henne completed 20 of 26 passes for 241 yards and was not intercepted. Said Ryan, "We made the quarterback look like Dan Marino."
The Jets, with the help of a 49-yard pass-interference penalty, went back on top 27-24 on a 3-yard TD run by Jones with 5:12 left, but their defense could not stop Miami in the final minute.
Miami rolled up 413 yards, including 151 on 36 carries.
Regarding the Jets' failure to close the game out defensively, linebacker Bart Scott said: "We've done that the first two weeks of our season. That was kind of our staple - closing everything out. We didn't get it done today. We'll try and be better next time. We've got a short week, but we'll see those guys in a couple of weeks to get that bad taste out of our mouth.''
New Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards wound up catching five passes for 64 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez and a 34-yard reception that set up Jones' 1-yard touchdown run. "It was fun,'' Edwards said. "When Jerricho [Cotchery] comes back [healthy], it's going to be a problem getting this offense down. We will be a dangerous offense. There were a lot of guys out there making plays.''
Behind the touchdown toss from Sanchez to Edwards and field goals of 40 and 43 yards by Jay Feely, the Jets led 13-10 at the half. But the Dolphins cashed in on their second drive of the second half, carving up the Jets with their potent ground game and, of course, the Wildcat.
Miami wore the Jets down, chewing up 8:41 on a 15-play, 64-yard scoring drive. Henne concluded it with a beautiful play-action fake on first-and-goal from the 2. Scott bit on it and allowed Fasano to slip into the end zone unguarded. Henne hit Fasano for the touchdown, putting the Dolphins on top 17-13 with 14:17 left in the fourth. That would be the first of five lead changes in the fourth quarter.
The Jets won the opening coin toss, electing to defer and play defense in what's become a trend under Ryan. As the architect of the defense, he wants to set the tone immediately on that side of the ball.
However, it was the Dolphins who established things from the outset, pounding the ball right down the Jets' throats on the opening drive. They had the Jets back on the heels with their Wildcat formation from the get-go, a bit of a surprise, given that Ryan's defense in Baltimore limited Miami to 11 yards on seven Wildcat plays in two meetings last season.
But the Dolphins used the Wildcat on consecutive plays, gobbling up 39 yards to reach the Jets' 17. Eight plays later, Brown ran up the gut for a 1-yard touchdown, concluding their 12-play, 80-yard march.
The Jets answered the Dolphins' score with one of their own, highlighted by a gutsy fake punt executed brilliantly by Steve Weatherford. With the Jets facing a fourth-and 6 at their 34-yard line, Weatherford pulled the ball down and darted 26 yards along the right sideline for a huge gain.
His big run, plus a pass-interference penalty on Yeremiah Bell two plays later, put the Jets in prime position to tie it. Sanchez hit Edwards on a slant for the 3-yard TD. Edwards got both feet down nicely before his momentum carried him out of bounds, making it 7-7 with 3:51 left in the first quarter.
Miami regained a 10-7 lead on Dan Carpenter's 35-yard field goal. But the Jets capitalized on yet another fake punt, with Brad Smith taking a direct snap on fourth-and-3 at Miami's 40. Smith's 12-yard run set up a 40-yard Feely field goal, squaring things at 10. Feely's 43-yarder with four seconds left made it 13-10 at the half.