This was supposed to serve as the best gauge for the Miami Dolphins.
The opponent wasn't too good (Houston). The opponent wasn't too bad (Oakland).
New York Jets were nearly their equal, and the Dolphins had every opportunity to prove they were the better team.
Instead, they blew their chance, falling to the Jets 23-20 in overtime Sunday at Sun Life Stadium. Jets kicker Nick Folk scored the winning points on a 33-yard field goal, quieting the 60,102 in attendance.
It came just moments after the Dolphins (1-2) saw their chances of victory slip away when kicker Dan Carpenter missed from 48 yards out. It was his second miss of the day.
"They were makeable," Carpenter said. "I mean, I let the team down. … It's something you don't want to go through, but you know there is nothing I can do about it now."
The Dolphins did just about everything possible to move above .500 despite playing the second half without running back Reggie Bush. He sustained a left knee injury just before halftime. There was hope he would return when he rode a stationary bike on the sideline, but Bush was taken to the locker room late in the third quarter.
Still, without their leading rusher, the Dolphins were in position for victory.
After New York grabbed a 20-17 lead on Mark Sanchez's 7-yard pass to Jeremy Kerley with 3:01 remaining, Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill led his team to a game-tying field goal. The drive, aided by a 19-yard pass interference penalty on Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson, ended with a 41-yard kick by Carpenter.
After stopping the Jets on the opening possession of overtime, Tannehill once again moved the Dolphins down the field. This time, the big play came when he connected with Brian Hartline on a 41-yard pass that gave Miami the ball at the New York 35. Three plays later, Carpenter was given the chance to win it.
His attempt was wide left.
"I talked to him after the game," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "He's disappointed, as you would imagine. We had a lot of confidence in him. The guy comes to work, he's a true professional. He works his tail off. I'm sure he'll be in that position again and he'll come through."
Carpenter added, "My position you have to have a short memory, no matter what. Whether you just made 30 in a row or you just missed three in a row, it doesn't matter. It's all about the next kick."
With new life, the Jets did not waste their opportunity.
Sanchez, who threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, needed just four plays to put the Jets in field goal position. The key was a 38-yard completion to Santonio Holmes. The Jets then ran three plays before attempting the field goal.
The kick was initially blocked by Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks, but Philbin had called a timeout before the snap. Folk then was successful on the second attempt to end the game.
"He got in there and blocked that field goal," defensive end Jared Odrick said. "It's upsetting but it's something that happens. It's a part of the game in terms of icing the kicker. … It's tough but that's where the cookie crumbles."
The Dolphins were on the losing end despite controlling the first half. They led 10-3 at halftime before momentum quickly shifted on the first drive of the third quarter.
Tannehill on the second play of the half was intercepted by LaRon Landry, who returned it 18 yards for a touchdown to tie the score. Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas then on the next play fumbled, giving the Jets possession at the Miami 26.
After the Jets drove to the 2, Dolphins safety Chris Clemons came up with perhaps the game's biggest defensive play. He intercepted Sanchez's pass in the end zone, preventing the Jets from taking the lead.
It was just the break the Dolphins needed.
Two possessions later, they grabbed the lead after an 11-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by fullback Jorvorskie Lane.
"Any time you lose, it's hard," linebacker Kevin Burnett said. "… I've only been a part of two losing football teams in 25 years I've been playing football. For me, I don't want to make losing a habit."