MIAMI – When the wildcat delivered a big play for the Miami Dolphins, coach Tony Sparano skipped along the sideline with glee, reached back and threw a roundhouse punch.
That was just in the first quarter. The knockout came much later, again with the wildcat.
Running back Ronnie Brown took the snap with 10 seconds left and scored on a 2-yard keeper for the fifth lead change of the final period, giving Miami a wild 31-27 victory over the New York Jets on Monday night.
Newcomer Braylon Edwards provided a big boost for the Jets, and two fake punts fooled the Dolphins. But Miami gained 110 yards with the wildcat, which was instrumental in three touchdown drives, including the last one.
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“Like anything else, if you execute, good things will happen,” Brown said.
Jets coach Rex Ryan was annoyed the wildcat kept working.
“I used to see all those gimmicks when I was coaching back in college,” Ryan said. “I’ve been a part of some bad performances before on defense, just not this bad.”
The Dolphins started from their own 30-yard line with 5:05 left, trailing 27-24, and mounted a 13-play drive for the winning score. The march included four wildcat plays for 25 yards, the last on third down at the 2.
“We were in the huddle and said, `We’ve got to score a touchdown. No settling for field goals. We’ve got to finish the game,”’ Brown said.
He ran up the middle, found a seam and crossed the goal line with 6 seconds to go.
The resilient Dolphins (2-3) came from behind three times in the fourth quarter, and they’re back in the AFC East race after losing their first three games. The Jets (3-2) have lost two straight and fell into a tie with New England for first place.
The game became a shootout reminiscent of the Dolphins’ Dan Marino days, and filling that role just fine was Chad Henne.
In only his second NFL start, Henne completed 20 of 26 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He threw deep to Ted Ginn Jr. for a 53-yard score to give Miami a 24-20 lead with 10:10 left.
“We made him look like Dan Marino,” Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said. “They did what they want, and they did it at will.”
The Jets kept answering with Edwards, acquired in a trade with Cleveland a week ago. He caught one scoring pass and set up New York’s other two touchdowns. The Jets’ fake punts set up a TD and a field goal.
The Dolphins’ trickery came via the wildcat, which they ran 16 times. On the game’s opening drive, Miami threw out of the formation for the first time this season, and Brown connected with tight end Anthony Fasano for a 21-yard gain. Ricky Williams then ran for 18 yards from the wildcat, and Brown scored on a 1-yard plunge on third down to cap a 71/2-minute drive.
The Dolphins used the wildcat five times in a TD drive that consumed nearly 9 minutes of the second half. But while they relied on ball control for much of the game, they also showed a newfound ability to strike quickly.
Ginn beat Darrelle Revis and two other Jets deep, catching Henne’s long pass just before crossing the goal line. It was a rare long gain by the Dolphins, who came into the game with only two completions of 20 yards or more to wide receivers.
“Teddy ran a great route, and they gave us the coverage we wanted,” Henne said.
Williams set up a field goal when he gained 59 yards on a reception, with all the yards coming after the catch. He finished with 68 yards rushing on 11 carries, and Brown ran for 74 yards in 21 attempts.
The Dolphins totaled 413 yards, converting nine of 14 third-down chances and controlling the ball for 331/2 minutes.
“We were definitely in a dog fight for 60 minutes,” Henne said. “It shows a lot of character in our team.”
Jets rookie Mark Sanchez was 12 of 24 for 172 yards and benefited immediately from the addition of Edwards, who caught a 3-yard scoring pass to cap his first series with the Jets. Edwards made a leaping 34-yard catch on third-and-21 to set up another TD.
“Everyone saw it — he’s a big-time receiver,” Ryan said. “That’s one thing we did right last week was make that trade for him.”