The decision had already been made. Jets owner, Woody Johnson, and general manager, John Idzik, told Rex Ryan prior to kick-off on Sunday that he would continue as the Jets head coach next season. But, if the men in charge needed any further justification that they’d made the correct decision, the Jets’ performance in Miami sealed the deal.
Geno Smith threw for 190 yards and ran for a touchdown. Dee Milliner and Ed Reed intercepted Ryan Tannehill a combined three times. And the Jets thwarted the Dolphins playoff chances as they defeated the hometown team 20-3.
Normally, a season ending with eight wins and eight loses – the epitome of mediocrity – isn’t cause for a jubilant postgame celebration. But this was different, this was about more than their record, this was about the chance to build on what they have built, continue this two game winning streak into next season, this was about saving their head coach’s job. After the game, they got their reward. Jets Owner Woody Johnson announced to the team that Ryan would return in 2014.
“You’d think we won the Super Bowl,” quarterback Geno Smith said after the game.
“We’ve been talking about the benefits of having him stay,” receiver David Nelson said, “but as a team, we came together and said, ‘The time for talking is over. … The most powerful way to keep him is to go out and prove it.’”
And prove it they did.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith looked like a quarterback who is just starting to figure things out. He completed 17-of-27 passes for 190 yards, and for the second week in a row committed no turnovers. Smith also utilized his legs. The rookie rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries.
“[Coaches] have been telling me [to run] all year,” Smith said. “But, early on, I was so focused on my reads and trying to see the defense and figuring things out that I didn’t play the game.”
The game was also a coming out party for the Jets 2013 rookie class, a hopeful glimpse of the future. Along with the strong performance by their rookie quarterback, the oft embattled first round draft pick Dee Milliner was tight in coverage, broke up several passes including one in the endzone, and intercepted Tannehill twice – his third in the past two weeks. The Jets other first round pick Sheldon Richardson also got in on the action, emulating William “Refrigerator” Perry carrying the ball twice and scoring his second rushing touchdown of the season – a number that equals a mark set in 1985 by the Chicago Bears’ William Perry for rushing touchdowns by a defensive lineman.
“I told [Rex Ryan] earlier in the season that whatever they needed me to do to win I was willing to do it,” Richardson said. “They put me in at fullback, and it worked.”
The game began much like the previous meeting between the two teams with a scoreless first quarter. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins broke the deadlock when the second year quarterback connected with Mike Wallace for a 5-yard touchdown. However, it was to be their last score of the day, as the Jets went on to score twenty unanswered points.
Smith led the Jets on three scoring drives. Sheldon Richardson rumbled into the endzone to tie the game at 7-7. And following a three-and-out on the Dolphins ensuing drive, Smith sealed the victory with a 12-yard touchdown run, which included a little help from Jets running back Bilal Powell, who barreled Smith over the goal line after he initially looked to be stopped short.
“I was really struggling right there with that linebacker,” Smith said. “It was very smart on [Powell’s] behalf to give me that extra push.”
The victory gives the Jets their first back-to-back victories of the season, and avoids back-to-back losing seasons, as they finish the season at 8-8.