Dolphins' defense bounces back, wrecking Sam Darnold's day

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Mama said there'd be days like this.

Sunday in Miami we saw the type of offensive performance from both sides that leave both offensive coordinators shaking their heads. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets combined for just 12 offensive points and 450 yards, and they went 5-of-29 on third down.

But the Dolphins will proudly take a 13-6 victory, even though it wasn't pretty, because it means their playoff goals are still obtainable at 5-4.

It was an extremely strong bounce-back performance from the Miami defense, probably its best of the season, as it made four interceptions against Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. The difference-maker was a pick-six from rookie linebacker Jerome Baker, the only touchdown in the game.

Miami's coaches have raved about Baker's speed and coverage ability. He flashed both in the most important play of the game.

Baker stood in the locker room after the game firmly holding on to his pick-six ball in his left hand. He wouldn’t let it go as teammates jokingly clowned him in the locker room as he did interviews with reporters.

“This is the ball. This is it, my first one. I’m very thankful,” Baker said. “It’s just the sweetest feeling ever, especially getting into the end zone and you see all your brothers run toward you. [You] get a little tired, but it’s all worth it.”

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke challenged his unit to play within the scheme and respond better than it did in its previous two games, when Miami allowed a combined 74 points. He threatened players' starting jobs, and they showed up big.

Brock Osweiler missed on several throws and failed to get much movement with the offense, but his most important goal was avoiding turnovers, and he accomplished that.

The same could not be said for Darnold, who had an extremely rough outing, although he certainly didn't get much help from his offensive line, receivers and running game.

Just as they did in their first meeting in New York earlier this season, the Dolphins picked on Darnold, baiting him into poor throws and feasting on him when he was indecisive in the pocket. They had four sacks, too.

One significant defensive change was inserting Minkah Fitzpatrick into a full-time role. He started the game as a boundary cornerback for the first time in his NFL career, in place of Bobby McCain, who played slot cornerback. Fitzpatrick, who had played nearly every snap of his Dolphins career as a slot cornerback or safety, played well when he was moved back to safety during the Jets' third drive after Reshad Jones removed himself from the game.

Cameron Wake shook off a slow start to have his best game of the season. He doubled his season sack total by taking down Darnold twice -- including once early in the fourth quarter to force a longer Jets field goal attempt. Jets kicker Jason Myers missed the 50-yard attempt, keeping the Dolphins ahead 6-3.

Defensive tackle Akeem Spence had the Dolphins' other two sacks, providing the pass rush Miami has sought for weeks.

But maybe the most important stat? Miami held the Jets to 80 rushing yards on 21 carries. The Dolphins had given up 600 rushing yards in their previous three games.

“The No. 1 thing we did today was stop the run. They weren’t gashing us. They were looking at a lot of third-and-longs,” Spence said. “They ball has to go down the field. When they have to go down the field, we’re a strong defense. ... We played as one today.”

Dolphins coach Adam Gase agreed.

“They did a good job playing together,” Gase said. “We had all three levels trying to really complement each other, and that’s what you’re looking for.”

There are still many issues to resolve, such as the Dolphins' growing injury list, which now could include starting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja'Wuan James, and how to get more consistent production out of an offense that had just 168 total yards and seven first downs. It was the fewest first downs by any team in a win this season.

Running back Frank Gore passed Barry Sanders for sixth all time in NFL scrimmage yards and helped Miami control field position. But the Dolphins will need more from their playmakers next week at Green Bay.

For one week, they can enjoy the pleasure of being over .500 in the second half of the season.