Jets at Dolphins

Matchup to Watch

Jets’ defense

vs. Dolphins’ run game

According to the defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Jets wasted the best game of the noted run-stopper Mike DeVito’s career in a loss Oct. 9 in New England. Another wasted game would be demoralizing. The Jets fully expect the Dolphins, with Matt Moore making his first start at quarterback for Miami, to run and run and run, with Reggie Bush, Lex Hilliard and, if healthy, Daniel Thomas. The Jets yield 134.8 rushing yards per game. For a unit aiming to regain respectability, nothing more than domination Monday will suffice.

Number to Watch

45.6

That is how many yards Joe McKnight has averaged on his nine kickoff returns, best in the N.F.L. McKnight has produced two long returns — a 107-yarder for a touchdown against Baltimore and an 88-yarder against New England that led to a third-quarter touchdown — and his explosiveness could pose problems for Miami. The Dolphins have allowed 27.4 yards per kickoff return, putting them in the bottom third of the league. The Jets, though, will surely welcome fewer returns by McKnight if that means that their defense is playing well.

Quotation of the Week

‘They’re still the team to beat in our division.’

Dolphins Coach TONY SPARANO, whose team lost by 14 points to first-place New England (5-1) in the season opener, on the 2-3 Jets.

BEN SHPIGEL

GRAPHICS

Dolphins Are in the Middle of Another Lost Season

Had Shula’s statue come to life last Sunday, it might have lowered its upraised fist to smash a table in frustration. It is difficult to pinpoint the nadir for the Miami Dolphins, a once proud and successful team that is being drowned by years of personnel mistakes, underachieving players, questionable business decisions and general ineptitude. But those factors coalesced last Sunday into one of the strangest and most dispiriting days the Dolphins have ever endured, unlike anything Shula presided over in 1972.

The Dolphins dropped to 0-6, losing a 15-point lead with five minutes to play against the and a quarterback — — who, until the unthinkable comeback began, did not even look like a passable pro.

On Sunday, the Dolphins play the Giants, but they spent the week assessing who is a failure ( and arguing about why they could not stop a Tebow run on a 2-point conversation that sent last week’s game to overtime. Players say the wrong personnel was on the field (read: coaches’ fault). The defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said the correct personnel and scheme were called and his defense should have worked (read: players’ fault).

At one point during the meltdown, Coach Tony Sparano was captured by a sideline microphone pleading with an official for a replay and noting he was going to be fired. At another point, the team owner, Stephen Ross, was laughing on the sideline with Tebow’s college coach, Urban Meyer, invited there as part of the Dolphins’ promotion to honor the Florida Gators, a plan to sell some tickets when real Dolphins fans have little to cheer.

The Dolphins still play their song “Miami Dolphins No. 1” on the rare occasions that they score, but this season, a circus calliope might be more appropriate.

“I’ve been around this team a long time, I’ve seen some pretty bizarre things, but that whole scene really takes the cake,” said Kim Bokamper, a linebacker and defensive end for nine seasons with the Dolphins during the 1970s and ‘80s, who is now a South Florida broadcaster. “I came back on the field afterward, probably an hour after the game, and there must have been 200 fans on the field waiting for Tebow to come out and take a picture.

“Then, he’s walking off the field and you hear some little girl yell, ‘We love you, Tim Tebow.’ It was the perfect exclamation point on a completely ridiculous day.”

Sparano is well liked and respected in the coaching community. He amiably joked with reporters this week that he found a heads-up penny on his morning jog before the Broncos game and that had not worked out. But there is little doubt he will be fired at the end of the season, if not sooner. He was given a contract extension in the off-season after Ross flew cross-country to try to lure Jim Harbaugh to the Dolphins.

Ross may have been naïve to think nobody would notice what he was doing, but it has escaped no one’s attention that Harbaugh has engineered a fast turnaround in San Francisco, making a dormant team suddenly relevant and riveting again.

That is what Ross, a New York-based real estate mogul who went to high school in Miami Beach, longs for.

Even in their best days, the Dolphins had trouble selling out their stadium, and Ross has tried to transfer some of South Beach’s shine to the team by inviting celebrities to be minority owners, and by creating a game-day nightclub out of some unsold luxury suites at the stadium. The sound of the thudding bass could still be heard after Miami’s loss Sunday, one of the few things about the Dolphins that seemed to be working properly.

In the halcyon days under Shula, and when Dan Marino was the quarterback, the team never needed gimmicks to attract celebrities. It was no surprise that hat Ross wanted a franchise quarterback and a star coach or general manager to shape the future.

Grossman, Redskins Lose to Dolphins, 20-9

Coach Mike Shanahan switched QBs again Sunday, starting Rex Grossman for the first time in four weeks. The change failed to help a hobbling offense, and the Redskins’ losing streak reached five games when they were beaten by the Miami Dolphins 20-9.

The Redskins (3-6) haven’t held a lead since Oct. 2, when they beat St. Louis. Their losing streak is the longest of Shanahan’s career.

“It’s frustrating being 3-6,” Grossman said. “We’re better than that.”

Grossman threw for 215 yards but had two interceptions, was sacked three times and finished with a passer rating of 58.7, lower than his NFC-worst season figure. While possessions by Washington reached the Miami 20, 26, 5 and 10-yard lines, those threats produced three field goals.

Grossman was a surprise starter, replacing John Beck four weeks after being benched. Shanahan said he decided to go with the more experienced quarterback because of a wave of injuries to the Redskins’ offense.

“I thought Rex gave us a chance to win,” Shanahan said. “If you have this many guys go down, I didn’t want to go with the inexperienced guy and throw him to the wolves.”

Shanahan declined to say who will start the next game against Dallas.

“We’re going to make decisions based on what goes on during the week,” he said. “Who we’re going against, practice, injuries — all of those play a factor.”

The Dolphins (2-7) earned their second victory in a row, and won at home for the first time in 364 days.

“It was nice to come in this locker room and celebrate a win,” embattled Miami coach Tony Sparano said. “I see 2-7 now as a hill but not a mountain. That’s how our players see it, too.”

The Dolphins led 10-6 at halftime, then mounted scoring drives of 70 and 81 yards to seal the win. After blowing fourth-quarter leads in three earlier losses, this time they held on.

“The first seven games we were kind of in disarray,” said Reggie Bush, who scored two touchdowns. “We were trying to find our identity. The difference now is we’re playing 60 minutes and finishing at the end of games.”

Miami was clinging to a 13-9 lead when Grossman drove his team 49 yards to a first down at the 10 early in the fourth quarter. He then threw a pass directly to linebacker Karlos Dansby, whose interception ended the threat.

“I have to be more careful in a crucial point in the game,” Grossman said.

Vontae Davis also had an interception for the Dolphins, who doubled their season total.

After Dansby’s takeaway, Miami drove 81 yards and scored the clinching TD on Bush’s 18-yard run. He crossed the goal line standing up and heaved the ball into the stands in jubilation.

“We made plays that winners make at the end,” Sparano said.

The Redskins’ three scoring drives totaled 48 yards. They twice took over deep in Miami territory thanks to an interception and a fumble recovery, but each time settled for a field goal by Graham Gano.

He also missed from 50 and 49 yards.

“I felt like we had a good rhythm,” Grossman said. “We moved the ball well. We just didn’t finish.”

A sputtering ground game didn’t help. Washington netted 61 yards rushing.

The Dolphins drew boos when they ran out the clock at the end of the first half rather than trying to score. But nursing the early lead paid off because the Redskins couldn’t cash in on their chances.

Kevin Barnes’ interception in the first half gave the Redskins the ball at the Miami 5, but three plays lost 3 yards and they kicked a field goal. Washington started at the Miami 24 after Ryan Kerrigan’s sack forced a fumble by Moore, and again the Redskins came away with only three points.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times on defense and offense,” Kerrigan said. “We can’t have that if you want to win.”

Notes: The latest casualty for the Redskin’s offense was WR Leonard Hankerson, who left the game with a strained right hip with four minutes left. He said the injury wasn’t serious, but he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to play in the next game. … Redskins DL Kedric Golston left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. … Hankerson had eight catches for 106 yards and became the first Washington rookie since 2001 with 100 receiving yards. … Bush rushed for 47 yards and has 242 in the past three games, a career best.