Dolphins 14, Jaguars 10
The Miami Dolphins don't have any answers for their unblemished December record the past two seasons.
This much they know: It sure helps to have solid quarterback play, a strong running game and a stifling defense. They got all three Sunday and improved to 6-0 in December under coach Tony Sparano.
Chad Henne completed a team-record 17 consecutive passes, Ricky Williams ran for 108 yards and a score and the Dolphins turned in one of their best defensive efforts of the season en route to a 14-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After starting 0-3, the Dolphins (7-6) moved above .500 for the first time in 2009 and positioned themselves right in the middle of the crowded AFC postseason race.
``All I know is that we're one step closer than we were before we started today,'' Sparano said. ``There's no question this team feels they can go out and win every week. Right now, in December, that's all you can ask. We're 2-0 in December right now. That's important. A lot of teams wish they were 2-0 in December.''
The loss snapped Jacksonville's five-game winning streak at home and left the Jaguars (7-6) likely needing to beat undefeated Indianapolis and New England to secure a wild-card spot.
``As long as you have a chance, you still have hope,'' Jaguars quarterback David Garrard said. ``That's really all you ask for. There are a lot of teams out there that can't say that.''
Miami, which won its sixth consecutive game decided by seven points or fewer, stopped Garrard on fourth-and-3 with 1:20 remaining and then sacked Garrard on the final play to seal the victory. The Dolphins used a similar defensive stand to upset New England last week.
A week after slowing down Tom Brady and the Patriots, Miami was even better against Jacksonville. The Dolphins held Maurice Jones-Drew to 59 yards and a touchdown, sacked Garrard three times and forced six three-and-outs on Jacksonville's first eight possessions.
``You stop their run game, make them one-dimension, then you can tee off on them,'' Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said.
Miami didn't run a single play from the wildcat formation for the second straight week. Didn't need to, either.
Williams pounded the Jaguars up the middle, taking advantage of John Henderson's absence, and Henne couldn't miss for most of the game.
Henne set the team record for most consecutive completions in a game. He fell one shy of Chad Pennington's franchise mark of 18 set over two games in 2008.
``Everyone was doing a wonderful job and giving me time to throw,'' said Henne, who threw 52 times for a career-high 335 yards last week.
Henne finished 21 of 29 for 220 yards Sunday.
``He keeps getting better and better,'' Sparano said. ``To go on a string like he did in this kind of game, with this kind of magnitude, is great. The one thing that is happening with him is we have all the confidence in the world that he will lead you right down the field and make it happen.''
Henne led the Dolphins on two long scoring drives in the first half, the first one capped by Williams' 1-yard TD run and the second by Henne's 1-yard bootleg.
Miami had outgained Jacksonville 176-14 early in the second quarter. The Jaguars tightened on defense and got back in the game thanks to two turnovers, Jones-Drew's short TD run and Josh Scobee's 25-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
They had several chances down the stretch, but couldn't get it done.
The Jaguars gambled three times on fourth down. They converted the first on their 35-yard line, but failed on the final two. Bell knocked away a pass intended for Mike Sims-Walker on one fourth-quarter drive - Jacksonville only had 10 players on offense, allowing Bell to freelance the middle of the field - then Miami's defense stuffed Garrard on a quarterback draw two possessions later.
Because of the team's 6-3 record in the conference, if Jacksonville wins its final three games, it would earn a playoff spot.
``We don't have any cushion,'' Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. ``Now we know we've got to win out. We have hope. We're going to fight the good fight.''
NOTES: Even though the game was blacked out on local television, Jacksonville had its biggest home crowd of the season (60,457). ... Williams reached double-digit scores for the second time in his career and first time since 2002. ... Dolphins were 8 of 15 on third down. ... Jones-Drew tied Fred Taylor's franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season with his 14th. ... Jaguars FB Greg Jones injured his right ankle late and had X-rays.