For about five minutes, it looked like Sam Darnold could drive the Jets' tank into a ditch.
Darnold and maybe new-again playcaller Adam Gase came out aggressively, with Darnold unflinching outside of the pocket and the coaches dialing up long passes. Darnold, returning from a shoulder injury for his first game since Nov. 1, dropped a pretty touch pass into the bucket to Breshad Perriman for 37 yards on third and long.
The Jets, one of the worst first-quarter teams in the NFL, went up 3-0 on a Sergio Castillo field goal. "We sputtered after that," Gase said, and that's what they did. From there, it was a heavy dose of the short Frank Gore runs and long Braden Mann punts that are the hallmark of this team.
The Dolphins won 20-3, and the Jets continued to regress to 0-11.
Gase testily denied an ESPN report he had taken back playcalling from Dowell Loggains, who appeared to not be sending in plays. "We've done the same thing the last four games," Gase said. "This is not hard ... these are the three plays, I do the third downs ... When we got down I was trying to do some of the two-minute stuff."
Darnold said the only voice he heard in his ear was Gase's.
The head coach also deflected questions about why starting guard Alex Lewis was inactive for what he termed a "non-injury" reason. "It's a team decision," Gase said.
Gregg Williams' defense got out to a slow start against Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was getting his first start since getting benched for Tua Tagovailoa after a Week 6 blowout win over the Jets. Tagovailoa was inactive with a thumb injury.
Fitzpatrick, who turned 38 this week, was the last quarterback to lead the Jets to a winning season when he started every game in 2015 and the Jets went 10-6. He was clearly the best quarterback on the field Sunday and delivered another critical win for the Jets, who needed the loss to maintain pole position for the No. 1 pick as the Jaguars lost to Cleveland.
At 7-4, the Dolphins stayed a game behind the Bills for first place in the AFC East. Just five games stand between the Jets and Trevor Lawrence — four are against winning teams and the fifth is against the Patriots.