Early wake-up call Sunday for Dolphins, Jets in London
Thoughts turned to childhood as the Miami Dolphins reminisced about the last time they played a football game at 9:30 in the morning.
Jarvis Landry said he was 11, and his team won. Reshad Jones said he was a 6-year-old in Pop Warner. And Brent Grimes?
"I don’t think I ever did it," Grimes said. "It’ll be a little weird."
The alarm will sound early Sunday for the Dolphins, and not just because they kick off against the New York Jets in London at 2:30 p.m. local time, which is 9:30 a.m. in Miami and New York.
With a 1-2 record and three consecutive lackluster performances, the Dolphins desperately need to get going.
"We feel the urgency," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "We’re at a critical point in our season."
Here are things to know about the 100th meeting in a rivalry that enters its 50th season:
EARLY START: Both teams have spent months planning for the challenges of a game five time zones to the east.
The Jets (2-1) retained a sleep therapist to help players adjust. They were given light-blocking glasses and a Litebook to provide additional light in the early morning.
"I think a lot of (these) things are odd because you don’t do it on a normal basis," tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said. "You don’t normally wear blue blockers or have (artificial) sunlight while you are eating breakfast. But we don’t normally play in London."
The Dolphins had the longer flight — 8 hours — and players wore compression sleeves on the plane.
They’re taking a two-game losing streak to London for the second year in a row. In 2014 they came home rejuvenated by a 38-14 victory over Oakland.
"Looks like history is trying to repeat itself," Jones said.
It should be noted, however, that the 2014 game kicked off at 6 p.m. London time.
SLOW STARTS: The early start is a particular concern for the Dolphins because they haven’t been ready at the beginning of their first three games.
In the opening quarter they’ve been outscored 27-3 and outgained 467-108. Last week they gave up 270 yards in the first half of a 41-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
"We’ve got to play a 60-minute football game," Philbin said. "We really haven’t done that."
TAKING IT AWAY: New York’s formula for success has been to cause a league-high 11 turnovers.
The Jets had five takeaways in each of their two victories, but just one in last week’s loss to Philadelphia. They were focused this week on getting back to making things tough on offenses by taking the ball away from them.
New York has seven fumble recoveries and four interceptions, and also is first in the NFL in red-zone defense by allowing just one TD in six opposing possessions inside the 20-yard line.
APPLYING PRESSURE: Even with the addition of $114 million tackle Ndamukong Suh, Miami’s defensive front has been less than stout.
The Dolphins have one sack in 94 pass plays, worst in the NFL. They’ve been outrushed 435-218, also last in the league.
New York’s pass protection has been solid, with Ryan Fitzpatrick sacked only twice in 118 pass plays.
STICKING WITH FITZ: The Jets have no quarterback controversy — yet.
Coach Todd Bowles made it clear the starting job still belongs to Fitzpatrick, even though Geno Smith has been fully cleared to play after missing several weeks when his jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali.
Fitzpatrick has six TD passes, but also five interceptions in three games — with three of the picks coming last week against Philadelphia. If Fitzpatrick struggles again, Bowles might have a lot to consider as the Jets head into the bye-week break.
"There’s a lot of things from my performance that I just need to continue to get better at," Fitzpatrick said. "Learn from it, but have to move on to next week and a new opponent and all the challenges that are going to come with traveling to London."
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