Henne, Wildcat help Dolphins beat Jets in thriller

It’s usually wise to expect the unexpected in the NFL. That’s why I’m not going to act the least bit surprised that Rex Ryan’s defense looked befuddled on Monday night while trying to defend second year quarterback Chad Henne and the Dolphins’ Wildcat formation.

Thanks to Henne’s surprising accuracy (he completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns) and the combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams running the Wildcat, the Dolphins topped the Jets 31-27 in one of the more entertaining games of the year.

All right I admit – I’m a little surprised that Ryan’s defense was little match for the Wildcat. After all, if there were one defensive mind in the NFL that could shut down that formation, it would be Ryan right? Then why whenever the Dolphins needed a big play in the fourth quarter to keep the chains moving did they successfully use the Wildcat? Why can no defensive guru figure this formation out?

The short answer is that Miami runs the Wildcat so well that even the stingiest of defensive coordinators can’t slow them down. Brown has been the perfect fit for the formation and even though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Williams still displays good burst when he runs. Simply put, the Dolphins have mastered the formation and will still give teams (any team, including Ryan’s Jets) fits while using it.

The Wildcat also helped open things up for Henne in the passing game. He wasn’t asked to do too much, but he came up with a couple of huge completions when Miami needed them, specifically on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. early in the fourth. It’s still early, but the Dolphins may have found their franchise quarterback.

On the other side, Mark Sanchez turned in his second poor outing in consecutive weeks. He certainly wasn’t as bad as he was last week in New Orleans, but he was shaky to say the least. He finished with only 172 yards on 12 of 24 passing, although he did throw a touchdown pass to the newly acquired Braylon Edwards, who looked like a player with a new lease on life while hauling in five receptions for 64 yards.

Sanchez was far from the reason the Jets lost, but it has been clear the past two weeks that defensive coordinators are starting to figure out how to game plan for him. This is when it’s important for a young quarterback to learn from what he’s seeing on the field and not lose confidence in his abilities. He didn’t turn the ball over tonight, which was big considering he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against New Orleans last week. But Sanchez needs to continue to learn from his mistakes and move forward in his development.

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Monday night to serve as test for youngster Sanchez

Brady

For all intents and purposes, last week was an utter disaster for Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. He threw for only 138 yards, was intercepted three times and had a fumble recovered for a touchdown in the Jets’ 24-10 loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

Simply put, the kid looked like a rookie.

One of Sanchez’s many issues last week was that he tried to do too much when plays broke down. Instead of chucking the ball out of bounds when he was in trouble, he forced passes into coverage and paid for it. Credit the Saints for generating a consistent pass rush throughout the game, but Sanchez needs to learn how to get rid of the ball and live to fight for another play.

But the growing pains he suffered last week weren’t anything that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger didn’t go through early on in their development. In fact, Manning threw so many picks his rookie year that fans used to hold up signs mocking him to remember that his team wore blue jerseys and white helmets.

It’s what Sanchez does tonight against the Dolphins that I’m most interested in, because he was bound to suffer a let down eventually. He wasn’t going to walk through an entire season playing as well as he did the first couple games and not be exposed for the inexperienced player he is. In fact, it’s better that he got his first ass-kicking of his career early in the year rather than later on at a crucial moment in the season. He can learn from the beating he took last week in New Orleans.

Pundits like to marvel at how calm and cool Sanchez has looked so far leading the Jets’ offense. Well, let’s see how he reacts after suffering his first loss. Let’s see if he can learn from what happened last weekend and turn it into a positive for he and his team. He was eventually going to be exposed and he was, but now let’s see how he responds.

I think he’ll respond favorably. He has a great defense at his disposal, a solid running game, an excellent offensive line and now a No. 1 receiver in Braylon Edwards (when he’s not dropping passes that is). Sanchez doesn’t need to do too much; he needs to let the game come to him and rebound from his first defeat as a pro. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how he does playing in his first prime time game of his career.

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