Coaching? Bravado? Dolphins showed it all in Jets win

One team talked last week and one team played on Sunday

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.

Out of the silence, out of the numbness, out of the stone faces and humbled voices of the New York Jets' locker room, Mike Westhoff emerges into Sunday's dusk, zipping his vest against the cool and saying softly, "Long day."

He walks the concourse of MetLife Stadium, listing the Dolphins' successes against his Jets special teams, then stops abruptly.

"That's as bad as it's ever been in my whole career,'' he says.

Westhoff is 64 and coached four decades and you say maybe, with time, with distance, it won't feel as bad when …

"No,'' he interrupts, "that's the worst day in my whole career."

This is what the Dolphins did on Sunday.

This is how badly they beat the Jets.

They turned a loud team quiet. They turned a bombastic coach in Rex Ryan humble. And they made a proud man like Westhoff feel more football pain than he ever has.

Add all this to the growing list of this season's surprises. Add it and wonder where this season goes now, at 4-3, in the playoff mix, with three straight wins on their portfolio.

Joe Philbin likes to say coaching schemes don't win days. But they went a long way this day. It was the coaching schemes that led to a special-teams Triple Crown — an onside kick recovery, a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown and a blocked field-goal attempt — all in the first half.

"I've never seen that before,'' Westhoff said.

Has anyone? On any level? For the second straight win, the day swung on what special-teams coach Darren Rizzi found in the video room, Philbin decided to use in the game and the players carried out.

"Isn't that how it's supposed to work?" defensive end Olivier Vernon said.

Forgive his innocence. He's a rookie. We won't give him chapter and verse on what's supposed to happen and what's actually happened over the last decade of the Dolphins.

It was Olivier who blocked a field-goal attempt and also pounced on a blocked punt for a touchdown. Teammate Jimmy Wilson blocked the punt off a stunt where the Jets' Tim Tebow had to decide to block one of two Dolphins rushing.

"He let me free,'' Wilson said. "All I had to do was make sure I blocked it. It was sitting right there for me."

"It bounced right to me,'' Vernon said. "Touchdown."

In their September meeting, Tebow ran a fake punt that changed the game. Now it was the Dolphins' special teams that kept changing it almost right from Sunday's start.

The Dolphins kicked a field goal on their first drive and, on the ensuing kickoff, Philbin called for the onside kick. That's about as radical as calling for a fake punt from your own 40 when up just three points, as he did against St. Louis.

Again: You can judge Philbin by the Puritan look he brings if you want. And again: He's made decisions since arriving that make Bill Parcells and Nick Saban look like wimps.

On the onside kick, Rizzi and special-teams assistant Dave Fipp noticed the first line of Jets blockers were making a fundamental mistake. They ran back too early. They left an opportunity to attack.

There was some fortune here. Dan Carpenter made a perfect bunt up the middle. Jason Trusnik, who recovered the kick, wasn't supposed to be in that role. His role was to clear out Jets for a teammate to recover.

"The ball bounced around, it was just there for me,'' Trusnik said. "I grabbed it. That's the kind of day we had. Offense. Defense. Special teams. We all went out and played hard and won."

It was like a fairy-tale moral, the manner this game played out in light of the Jets leading the league in headlines last week.

One team talked.

One team played.

And there was Westhoff, a man to respect, walking away from the game as darkness fell on the Meadowlands, and the Jets, saying again, "I've never seen anything like that."

dhyde@sun-sentinel.com. Follow at Twitter.com/davehydesports.

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