EAST RUTHERFORD: For the New York Jets, Christmas came a few weeks early on Sunday. Gang Green benefited mightily from a reversed non-call with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, setting the Jets up to kick a walk-off 44-yard field goal and defeat the Miami Dolphins 22-21 in front of an announced crowd of 78,523 at MetLife Stadium.
Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron made a decision to add a defensive pass interference call on Miami Dolphins rookie cornerback Nik Needham who appeared to have successfully defended a pass from Sam Darnold intended for Vyncint Smith on a third and 18 at the Miami 46-yard line.
It was originally a no call. The Jets were facing a fourth and 18 with 47 seconds left and had no timeouts.
Just as Darnold went to take a snap in what many thought would be the Jets final play on offense, and give the Dolphins the come-from-behind win, the referee's whistle blew.
It was announced that the previous play was under review.
Riveron gave this explanation to a pool reporter after the game on why the play was deemed pass interference. It is a league rule that when there is less than two minutes left, reviews are at the sole discretion of the NFL New York office.
“It was clear and obvious that the receiver did get significantly hindered prior to the ball getting there.”
To many, it is obvious this call would not have been defensive pass interference at the beginning of the season.
There have been many more egregious acts of aggression on receivers by defenders over this season that stood as a no-call after review. Riveron disagreed. “[Defensive pass interference] is not being applied any differently than it was at the beginning of the season.”
The reversed call gave New York a first down at the Miami 38. On the first play Darnold completed a 12-yard pass to running back Ty Montgomery. Two plays later, with three seconds on the clock Sam Friken booted a 44-yard field goal to win the game and lift the Jets record to 5-8 on the season.
Jets center Jonotthan Harrison said he thought the play was over as a no call. He said he was thrilled when he realized the play was being reviewed. “It was exciting,” the six-year veteran said. “It was very, very exciting. And the league did that. It was a great call, a great catch by them.”
Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was livid with officials while the review was going on and even chased down an official after the game to let him know how he felt about a process that has not been consistent all year.
Flores, who saw his team's record drop to 3-10 on the season, did not take the bait in his post game press conference.
When asked about the pass interference reversal he replied:
“Yeah, it was a tough game, hard fought by our team,” the rookie head coach said. “I'm proud of the way our guys played. They played hard. We had some guys go down, we had some guys step in (and) make plays. WE just didn't make enough plays to win.”
The Flores was referring to are wide receivers DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson who both left the game in the first half with concussions. “It complicates things a lot,” Flores said.
“Obviously when you go into a game with a specific game plan, with guys in mind, when you lose one player at any position, you have a backup for that. When you lose two, that's tough.
Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was nominated for various Player of the Week awards after last weeks' winning performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. This week, not so much. The 37-year old was 21 of 37 for 245 yards. He was intercepted once, sacked twice.
Jets defensive end Henry Anderson talked about keeping Fitzpatrick out of the end zone but giving up enough drives to allow the Dolphins Jason Sanders to kick a club record seven field goals.
“He does a good job extending plays,” Harrison said. “That’s the type of quarterback that he is. He’s slippery in the pocket, when he extends plays it’s tough on the guys in the back end to cover receivers for that long. There were several times when the rush up front had opportunities to bring him down and we didn’t. He have to do better, we’ve got to finish tackles eliminate missed tackles and prevent him from making plays.”
Anderson said he was glad to finally win an AFC East Division game. “I think we were 0-4 in the Division up to this point,” The 6-foot-6, 301-pounder said at his locker after the game. “We just wanted to get a win the division. We executed and got the job done.”
The Jets did not run the ball well, but they tried, rushing 32 times for 112 yards as a team. Bital Powell led the Jets with 74 yards on 19 carries. The Dolphins rushed 27 times for 122 yards. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled eight times for 65 yards. Patrick Laird carried the ball 15 times for 48 yards.
Darnold finished 20 for 36 for 270 yards, two touchdown passes, one interception, he was sacked once and finished with a quarterback rating of 86.6
“It's always good to get a win in this league,” Darnold said after the game. “It is hard to win in this league and it was really good to get that one.” The Dolphins have a lot of youth on their roster. It is a team that can grow.
The effort Miami gave yesterday signifies the players are buying into what Flores is selling for the future.
One Dolphins starter was asked about chalking up the loss as part of the process. He wasn't having it.
“No you don’t,” right guard Evan Boehm said at his locker after the game. “A loss is a loss, a win is a win the NFL. It doesn’t matter if you have an old vet team or a young team. You play to win the game and that’s what we did today. It’s a tough loss. It happened. We get to go in tomorrow, watch the film, correct the mistakes we made, comeback up here next week and play a different team. But try and get a different result.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii