80F Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL
While the Miami Dolphins hope their first victory is the beginning of a much-needed turnaround for the storied franchise, the New York Jets hope their latest setback is something that won't be too hard for them to improve upon.
The host Dolphins look to continue their progression under new coach Joe Philbin on Sunday when they try to add to the struggles of a Jets offense guided by former coach Tony Sparano.
After a winless preseason and meager effort during a 30-10 season-opening loss at Houston, it appeared Miami might be headed for a long, disappointing first year under Philbin. However, Reggie Bush ran a career-high 26 times for 172 yards with two touchdowns and rookie Ryan Tannehill recorded a 91.0 passer rating while throwing and rushing for a TD as the Dolphins beat Oakland 35-13 at home last Sunday.
Coming off a third straight losing season, the Dolphins (1-1), who outscored the Raiders 28-3 in the second half, are already off to a better start than 2011 when they dropped their first seven games.
"We want to be a team that gets better as the year goes along," Philbin said. "We've made a couple of strides, but we've got a million miles to go."
So too does New York (1-1), which shook off a terrible offensive preseason with a 48-28 home win over Buffalo in the opener but fell 27-10 at Pittsburgh last Sunday. Under new offensive coordinator Sparano, who went 29-32 the past fours seasons as Miami's head coach, the Jets totaled 384 yards and went 10 for 14 in third-down conversions against the Bills. At Pittsburgh, they amassed only 219 total yards and were a paltry 4 for 12 on third down.
"We can't get negative plays, it always hurts when you do," high-profiled backup quarterback Tim Tebow said. "I felt like we had things rolling for a little ... but it's a game of momentum. When you lose it, it's hard to get it back."
Sparano and coach Rex Ryan continue to favor Mark Sanchez instead of Tebow, who has rushed six times for 33 yards and has yet to throw a pass. Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three TDs versus Buffalo but was 10 for 27 for 138 with a touchdown against the Steelers.
Sanchez has averaged 219.5 passing yards with nine TDs and four interceptions while going 2-4 versus Miami.
Still, Ryan plans to stick with Sanchez even though Tebow threw for two TDs and rushed for 59 yards on nine carries last season when he led Denver to an improbable 18-15 overtime win at Miami.
"Right now, we think Mark gives us the best chance to be successful in that particular situation against that particular opponent," Ryan said. "Those are things that we'll always look at. I believe Tim can pass. We'll make the decision on when a guy is out there, not out there, or whatever."
Though Ryan obviously needs his offense to improve, his defense must find a way to stop Bush.
Once branded an NFL bust, Bush has averaged 126.7 rushing yards in his last six games - the most of any player since Week 13 of 2011. He's rushed 16 times for 108 yards in two games against the Jets.
"He's doing a tremendous job," Ryan said. "Obviously we've got to do a great job of getting a lot of guys to him and get him on the ground - put some hot sauce on him, if you will."
Ryan's defensive unit also needs to improve on third down after it allowed the Steelers to convert on 8 of 15 chances. However, star cornerback Darrelle Revis will return, fully recovered from a concussion sustained against the Bills, and Ryan is not concerned with his team's overall defensive play.
"Bet against us and we'll see where it ends up," he said. "I know where it's going to end up."
Miami and New York have split the season series each of the last two years, and the Dolphins have won two of three in Miami following the Jets' three-game winning streak there. Though the Dolphins continue to struggle to fill seats, they have won two straight and five of six at home overall.