THE FIFTH DOWN; Channeling Ryan

The beleaguered, blustery coach of the Jets takes the podium for his midweek news conference, his team coming off a critical loss and facing depressingly long playoff odds of their own making. He faces down the skeptical news media, a glint of defiance in his eyes, firm resolve in his lower jaw, bear claw and stale coffee on his breath. He did not give the following speech, but the world would be a lot more fun if he had:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

As you know, I usually stand up here and make snide remarks and left-handed compliments about our coming opponent. This week is unique, however, because we are not trying to make one team lose, but four or five of them.

Let me start by guaranteeing that we will beat the Dolphins and that the Bengals, the Titans and the Raiders will lose. Or, that we will beat the Dolphins and the Bengals, and the Titans and the Broncos will lose. Or, that we will beat the Dolphins and the Bengals, the Colts, the Celtics I cannot keep track of what I am guaranteeing anymore, but I guarantee that it will be something good. We will not be the baby brothers of the Broncos, or the great-nephews of the Titans, or the kooky Urkel-like neighbors of the Raiders.

I have nothing but respect for all of our competitors this week, as I hope the following comments make clear:

The Dolphins

Whoever is coaching these guys is doing a heck of a job. I’m not sure what Todd Bowles looks like: I may just ask Jason Taylor to point him out to me so I shake hands with the head coach and not the equipment manager or somebody. Bowles really did a heck of a job in the first half against the Patriots. Halfway respectable is better than not respectable at all. Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush are very focused and motivated right now. Someone must have filled their plastic cups with extra Chuck E. Cheese’s tokens. Matt Moore looks like a whole different quarterback since we beat him in October, and really, what quarterback wants to look like Matt Moore? The Dolphins are going to be up for this game; Jets games are the second biggest events of the year for them, after the Grammy Awards. Say what you will about George Halas, but no one ever listened to him on their headphones while doing Zumba.

The Bengals

The Bengals deserve a lot of credit: it’s not easy for a third-place team to make the playoffs. Of course, the last time I saw a schedule as easy as theirs there was nap time in the middle of it. I sent four members of the scouting department to the last Bengals home game, and it doubled their attendance total. If the Bengals make the playoffs and face the Texans in the first round, the game will be reclassified a non-B.C.S. bowl and played on the Big Ten Network. The Bengals are like ”Gilligan’s Island”: Marv Lewis is the Skipper, Mike Brown is Mr. Howell, Pacman Jones is Gilligan, and Andy Dalton is Ginger. The only one missing is Lovie, who has his own problems in Chicago. Carson Palmer is the only guy ever to escape the island. That Jerome Simpson really can do impressive flips. I would hate to face the Bengals in a dance-off. If Simpson came to New York, he could star as Spider-Man on Broadway. Of course, playing receiver for the Bengals is probably safer. The Ravens are my old team, and I am sure they can beat the Bengals the way they beat most opponents: by boring them to death.

The Titans

Chris Johnson is a tough running back to prepare for. He spends so much time running sideways, I replaced Titans game film with a documentary on fiddler crabs and no one noticed. I always warn my defenders, watch out for Johnson because you can stuff him for no gain on 20 carries, but then he will gouge you for 6 yards on No. 21. That Matt Hasselbeck sure is a survivor. He reminds me of the G.I. Joe action figures that Rob and I used to melt over the campfire. I love cornerback Cortland Finnegan. That guy has the impulse control of a bear trap. He makes Ndamukong Suh look like Deepak Chopra. Besides Finnegan, the Titans’ best defensive player is Karl Klug, who I think was the boxer from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out with the red mustache and lederhosen.

The Broncos

2nd Half Dooms Dolphins

Then came the second half.

The Dolphins gained just 21 yards in the third quarter and blew a 17-0 lead in less than 15 minutes as the New England Patriots rallied for a 27-24 win on Sunday.

“This one’s pretty tough,” said Reggie Bush, who ran for 113 yards on 22 carries.

Bush also surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in a season for the first time in his career, yet was in no mood to celebrate.

After gaining 255 yards in the first half, Miami (5-10) had just 126 in the second half and 80 of those came during a late touchdown drive as the Dolphins desperately tried to recover after bumbling their way through the third and most of the fourth quarters.

“We felt like we had the right game plan. We knew what we had to do, we just didn’t execute it for four quarters,” Bush said. “We made some mistakes on offense. That gets you beat playing against good teams like this.”

Both of Miami’s turnovers came in the second half and the pressure it had gotten on New England’s Tom Brady early was gone.

Brady shook off a poor start and passed for 304 yards and a touchdown. He also had a pair of 1-yard TDs rushing as the Patriots once again looked like contenders for the top seed in the AFC with one scoring drive after another.

“We stalled there a little bit in the second half. You can’t do that against a team like this,” said Matt Moore, who completed 17 of 33 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns for Miami.

New England opened the second half with a drive for a field goal to cut Miami’s lead to 17-3, then got the ball right back when Moore fumbled a snap and Vince Wilfork pounced on it for the Patriots.

That led to a touchdown pass from Brady to Deion Branch to get New England within 17-10 with 7:10 left in the third quarter and New England’s defense kept up the pressure.

Moore was sacked for a loss of 10 on the first play after the kickoff, then sacked again at the 10-yard line on third down. The Dolphins’ punt from their end zone gave New England the ball at Miami’s 41 and the Patriots continued their surge, scoring on Brady’s 1-yard run to tie it at 17l with 2:17 still left in the third quarter.

“We put our defense on the short field too many times, which made it easy for them,” Bush said.

The Dolphins didn’t score at all in the second half until Moore threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Davone Bess, pulling Miami within a field goal with 1:48 left to play. The Dolphins still had all three timeouts, but that no longer mattered when Brady converted on third-and-5 with a pass to Wes Welker, who had 12 catches for 138 yards.

New England (12-3) won its seventh straight game. After the Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, the Patriots needed a win or a tie to lock up one of the top two spots in the AFC.

Miami lost for the third time in eight games after opening 0-7 and is 1-1 under Todd Bowles, who took over when Tony Sparano was fired.

“The guys fought, but we didn’t finish,” Bowles said. “We didn’t stop them and we didn’t get points.”

The Dolphins seemed headed for a victory and got a break even before the game started when Patriots left tackle Matt Light hurt his ankle in warm-ups and didn’t play. Left guard Logan Mankins took his spot, but he left with a knee injury suffered on New England’s second series.

Their absence showed as the Dolphins kept pressuring Brady. He completed just 7 of 19 passes for 87 yards and was sacked three times in the half. But once the third quarter began, Brady and the Patriots — both their offense and defense — looked completely different starting with the very first play, a 22-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski.

Bush had another outstanding game for Miami with his fourth straight rushing day of at least 100 yards. He finished with 113 on 22 carries one week after gaining a career-high 203 yards.

The Dolphins had taken a 3-0 lead on Dan Carpenter’s 47-yard field goal 4:01 into the game and made it 10-0 with 1:15 gone in the second quarter on Moore’s 19-yard pass to Brandon Marshall.

They stretched that to 17-0, the Patriots’ biggest deficit of the season, on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Moore to Charles Clay. The 89-yard drive was helped by two defensive pass interference penalties on third down.

The Patriots punted on their first six possessions, then wasted a chance to score when Stephen Gostkowski’s 51-yard field goal attempt on the next to last play of the half went wide to the left.

Sacks, Takeaways Help Eagles Beat Dolphins 26-10

A thousand miles from Philly, as a disappointing season winds down, the underachieving Eagles still gave their fans something to cheer about Sunday. They totaled nine sacks and forced three turnovers to beat the Miami Dolphins 26-10.

Perhaps a quarter of the crowd was rooting for the visitors.

“The fans were unbelievable,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “Unbelievable. At times you almost felt like you were at home. They were loud. They were aggressive, right from the get-go.”

Reid’s defense was plenty aggressive, too. Philadelphia took advantage of three takeaways to score 24 points during a 9-minute span in the second quarter, and later sent Miami quarterback Matt Moore to the sideline with a head injury.

The Eagles (5-8) won for only the second time in six games and need a sweep of the final three games to have any chance of repeating as NFC East champions.

“We played like men today,” said Jason Babin, who matched a career high with three sacks. “Do we have a chance for the playoffs? Maybe. We were kind of out of it, but guys in this locker room decided, ‘We’re going to play and have fun and show you guys we love the game.’ I think that really rang true the whole day.”

The Dolphins (4-9) had won four of their past five games, but now they’re assured of a losing record for the third year in a row. Miami lost despite holding the Eagles’ potent offense to 239 yards.

“I feel like we kind of handed them this game,” said Miami’s Reggie Bush, who ran for 103 yards.

Michael Vick, back in the lineup after missing three games because of broken ribs, threw for 208 yards and a 34-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. He shook off four sacks.

“I’m in a lot of pain, but I just wanted to finish and get through the game,” Vick said. “I got hit a lot, and it kind of wore me down. I tried to hang in there.”

Miami Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long left the game in the first quarter with a back injury, and after that the Dolphins had trouble blocking Philadelphia. The Eagles’ short-yardage defense stuffed Miami on four possessions, twice on fourth down and twice to force kicks.

The Dolphins went 3 for 18 on third- and fourth-down conversions. The nine sacks of their QBs equaled a franchise record set in 1999, and the total tied for the third-most by an Eagles defense.

Babin forced a fumble and increased his season sack total to 15. Moore’s replacement, J.P. Losman, was sacked by Phillip Hunt for a safety.

“We had some new blitzes that everybody bought into, and the defense was really excited about them,” Babin said. “When we ran them, we ran them with ferocity.”

Miami’s lone touchdown was set up by an early blocked punt. Marshall was held to four catches for 27 yards.

“There comes a time when we as players and coaches have to do a better job of getting guys involved that need to be involved,” Marshall said. “It just didn’t seem like we had anything on offense in the second half that could attack what they were throwing at us.”

The Dolphins’ offensive ineptitude negated a lot of good work by their defense. LeSean McCoy, who came into the game second in the NFL in rushing, netted only 38 yards in 27 carries. Jason Taylor sacked Vick twice in the first 8 minutes to increase his career total to 138 1/2, which ranks sixth all time.

But after the Dolphins took a 7-0 lead, they committed a flurry of turnovers that led to 17 points for the Eagles.

Kurt Coleman intercepted Moore’s pass when he threw deep into triple coverage, and his return to the 1 set up a touchdown run by McCoy.

On the next series, Samuel forced a fumble by Davone Bess and recovered, and the Eagles kicked a field goal. After Moore lost a fumble when he was sacked by Babin, the Eagles then moved 73 yards in just four plays, and Vick’s strike to a wide-open Jackson made it 24-7.

“That’s how games are won in this league,” Vick said. “The teams that get the turnovers usually win.”

Notes: Eagles LB Darryl Tapp injured a rib on the safety and left the game. X-rays were negative, and he was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday. … Receiver Jeremy Maclin departed when the sore hamstring he has been nursing tightened. … Honored at halftime was Howard Schnellenberger, who recently retired as coach at Florida Atlantic. He was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator during their 1972 perfect season. … A Dolphins assistant coach was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct with less than 3 minutes left.