Dolphins defeat the struggling Jets on Black Friday, but they still have a lot of work to do.

IN RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSY — Painting Jevon Holland’s incredible 99-yard interception and score return of a Hail Mary attempt—the Hell Mary—is the simplest thing to accomplish. Jets supporters who have witnessed much too much named it quickly as a symbol of the Jets’ disastrous season, and no one would argue that was a terrible characterization.

However, the thrilling, will-he-or-won’t-he comeback also speaks volumes about the Miami Dolphins and their 8-3 record, which has them locked up as the top seed in the AFC for at least two days. Christian Wilkins was one of the guys Holland observed making blocks as he made his way up the field.

“As soon as I see the ball in the air, everyone boxing out, I am thinking, ‘I need that,'” Holland stated. “Scoring on defense is huge.”

It was particularly significant since it effectively neutralized Tua Tagovailoa’s interception, which was made one minute earlier and returned for a score. It also served as a timely reminder of what may make this squad competitive in the postseason: Their defense is strong enough to take over when their explosive attack falters, even for a small while, until the offense gets back on track. They limited the Jets to 159 yards of total offense with seven sacks and two interceptions, including a spectacular one by Holland. That was more than enough in the NFL’s inaugural Black Friday game, as the Dolphins defeated the Jets 34–13.

Aaron Rodgers was supposed to be guiding the Jets when this game was selected as a highlighted event on the calendar. Due to his injuries and the ugly fallout over the past two months, the Jets now have an unfavorable aspect. Their offense is completely incompetent, and their defense is among the best in NFL history, creating maybe the worst imbalance in the league’s history. Their stadium was decked out in black for the game, but it served as a sobering reminder that this season has a funeral vibe about it.Although the Jets’ four victories felt miraculous, it also makes it hard to assess the Dolphins’ overall level of excellence. They are winning the games they need to win in order to maintain their lead over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, even though they have yet to overcome a club with a winning record.

Jaelan Phillips, who made four tackles and a sack prior to the injury, suffered an Achilles tear, which is still a significant blow for a rising defense. And with his two interceptions this season, Tagovailoa has tallied 10—two more than he had in the 13 games he participated in the previous year. Mike McDaniel, the head coach, took the blame for the play calls, but Tagovailoa countered that it was his own fault for attempting to do more than was requested and for acting too aggressively.

“With that pick-six, it kept them in the game,” he stated. “Although I feel good about my game, I’m not at all happy with what I’m doing at the moment. I’m going to need to play better ball throughout these last minutes of these games.”

The offense as a whole gave them that for the most part in the second half. Of the 167 rushing yards the Dolphins gained, 115 came from running in the second half. Six out of seven third-down attempts were made by them. And in a nine-minute, fifteen-play drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert, their offensive line grabbed control. The two biggest changes in momentum throughout the game, according to McDaniel, were that drive and Holland’s return.

McDaniel gave Tagovailoa credit for his ability to bounce back from his opening half. According to McDaniel, his quarterback’s personal dissatisfaction with his performance during the game is among the largest challenges he has faced. The fact that Tagovailoa was able to put aside his personal annoyance—he was still obviously upset about the interceptions following the game—and perform well enough to guide the offense for the remainder of the game is encouraging.

Meanwhile, the defense has improved despite being overshadowed by the team’s blazing attack early in the season. In particular, the run defense has been stronger, limiting New York to only 29 yards of rushes. This prevented the Jets from gaining any momentum in their early drives and ultimately forced them to give up on the game since they were down.

It’s the best sort of football, regardless of the opponent’s skill level. The wait may have to go on for those seeking a more informative litmus test. Before a final three-game run against the Cowboys, at the Ravens, and against the Bills, the Dolphins play the Commanders, Titans, and Jets once more. These games should provide a clearer image of this team’s overall makeup. The Dolphins finished 8-3 the previous season as well, but they lost five straight games before falling in the wild-card stage of the playoffs.

Now that Tagovailoa is well, the offensive is even more effective, which is the difference.

He said, “I feel good,” on Friday evening. “I feel as good as anyone in the league is feeling in Week 12.”

That’s no minor matter for a club that still has goals to achieve. McDaniel raised his hand in the air in response to a question concerning the course of his defense. If the Dolphins are as good as the Jets made them appear, that could be their maximum potential as well.


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