Dolphins miss play-off berth
The Miami Dolphins blew an early lead on Sunday to complete a late-season collapse that will keep them out of the play-offs for a fifth year in a row.
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Miami were eliminated from the scramble for the AFC's final wild-card berth by the New York Jets, who thrived in the role of spoilers against their archrivals and won 20-7.
Geno Smith led three long scoring drives, ran for a touchdown and threw for 190 yards, while two interceptions by rookie Dee Milliner and one by 35-year-old Ed Reed prevented a Miami comeback.
The Dolphins (8-8) squandered a shot at their first play-off berth since 2008 by losing their final two games, including a shutout defeat at last-placed Buffalo. It was a dismal end to a roller-coaster season that included a four-game losing streak, a bullying scandal that drew national scrutiny, and a December surge that briefly left the Dolphins in control of their own destiny.
The Jets (8-8) celebrated as though they're play-off-bound but will sit out the post-season themselves for the third year in a row under coach Rex Ryan, whose future was in doubt - but owner Woody Johnson announced shortly after the game that he would return next season. He's 42-38 in five seasons with the Jets, and has one year remaining on his contract.
The only points of the season's final two weeks for the Dolphins put them ahead 7-0 in the second quarter, but the Jets rallied by mounting touchdown drives of 71 and 80 yards on their final possessions of the first half.
When Smith scored on a seven-yard, third-down keeper up the middle with three seconds left for a 14-7 lead at half time, an excited Ryan ran on the field to celebrate with his players.
Fans were booing in the first half and streaming for the exits in the final minutes. Smith drove the Jets 63 yards to set up a field goal that gave them a 17-7 cushion with 4:18 left, and on the next play Reed grabbed a deflected pass for his 64th career interception to all but seal the victory.
Milliner stopped a Miami threat in the third quarter with a diving interception of Ryan Tannehill one play after Mike Wallace dropped a potential touchdown pass that would have tied the game.
The Jets played like a team with nothing to lose, which they were, and eager to spoil Miami's season. They kept the Dolphins off balance with swarming defense and imaginative play-calling, including 294lb defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson's one-yard plunge for his second rushing touchdown this season. Running back Bilal Powell threw a 30-yard completion to set up the Jets' field goal.
Miami ended an 81-minute scoring drought in the second quarter. Tannehill beat a blitz by lobbing a five-yard touchdown pass on third down to Wallace, capping an 89-yard drive.
But the Dolphins' running game sputtered, as usual, and Tannehill had a woeful passer rating of 42.1.