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Miami at New York

From worst to first: Dolphins down Jets to win AFC East title

CBSSports.com wire reports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Chad Pennington was in the opposing locker room at the stadium where he spent the first eight years of his career, a big smile peeking out from a gray Miami Dolphins "Division Champions" cap.

"It's always a sweet feeling to be a champion," the Dolphins quarterback said after beating the New York Jets 24-17 on Sunday. "That's what we are: AFC East champions. It's a great feeling. This organization has been unbelievable. They accepted me from the get-go. This has been an unbelievable ride."

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And an improbable one at that.

Pennington, cut in the offseason by the Jets to make room for an aging Brett Favre, threw two touchdown passes against his former team and helped the Dolphins (11-5) complete a remarkable turnaround.

"It's not a revenge factor," Pennington said. "This week, being the 17th week, it was strictly focused on winning the championship, knowing that we controlled our own destiny. It just so happened that it had to come through New York. That's the only way fate would have it."

A year after going 1-15, the Dolphins joined the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams in NFL history to make 10-game improvements. Miami, under first-year coach Tony Sparano, has won five straight and nine of 10 in making the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and winning its first AFC East title since 2000.

"I don't think words can describe it," running back Ronnie Brown said. "Earlier in the season, we could only imagine being in this situation."

And now, Miami (11-5) will host Baltimore (11-5) in the first round next Sunday.

"Around this time last year, we were going home with no return," receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said.

Meanwhile, Favre and the Jets (9-7) were left to wonder what happened to them -- and what's to come.

After an 8-3 start and being mentioned as possible Super Bowl contenders with an NFL-high seven Pro Bowl selections, New York went into a tailspin by losing four of its last five - with Favre looking every bit a 39-year-old quarterback.

"The hardest part is the finality of it," Favre said, "especially when you expect to go on."

Whether Favre goes on remains to be seen. He said he'll have an MRI exam Monday on his ailing right shoulder, saying it would affect his decision on whether he'll come back for another season. Favre said he's been feeling discomfort in the shoulder for quite some time.

"It hurts in the back (of the shoulder), hurts down in the biceps and, occasionally, in my neck," he said. "Other than that, it's fine."

If this truly was it for Favre, who has yet to announce his plans, it wasn't a pretty ending. The 18-year veteran was 20-of-40 for 233 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions.

It's also uncertain whether Jets coach Eric Mangini will return for a fourth season, although he said he thinks he will.

"We have never discussed it throughout the course of the season," he said," but that's my anticipation."

Meanwhile, Pennington, who went from the scrap heap to an MVP candidate, finished 22-of-30 for 200 yards and TD throws to Ginn and Anthony Fasano. Phillip Merling also returned an interception 29 yards for a score.

"We were able to change this around with a good coach who came in with pride and passion," Ginn said. "We got a great quarterback and our D stepped up for us. That's all you could ask for."

The Jets took a 17-14 lead on Leon Washington's 10-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion early in the third quarter after taking advantage of a special teams mistake by the Dolphins. Punter Brandon Fields couldn't handle John Denney's high snap, and the ball bounced behind him before he fell on it at the Miami 28.

Facing a third-and-14 at the 32, Favre connected with Jerricho Cotchery for 15 yards to keep the drive alive. After a 7-yard run, Washington went up the middle for 10 more and a score. Cotchery then caught a pass in the front of the end zone on the 2-point conversion.

But Miami came right back with a six-play scoring drive, with Fasano making a twisting, turning 20-yard touchdown catch in the end zone to make it 21-17.

Dan Carpenter kicked a 48-yard field goal into the wind, making it 24-17 with 9:20 left in the game.

Miami took a 14-6 lead by scoring twice in a span of 15 seconds late in the first half on Ginn's 27-yard catch with 2:18 remaining and Merling's interception return.

"(It's) disappointment more than anything," Washington said. "From the beginning of December, we had a chance to control our own destiny and that's where you want to be at. We didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had."


  • Miami tight end David Martin took a blow to his head in the first quarter and didn't return.
  • Jets linebacker David Harris left after injuring an ankle in the second half.
  • The Jets had won the last five meetings.
  • New York RB Thomas Jones, who entered as the AFC's leading rusher, finished with just 23 yards on 10 carries.
Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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First-year coach Tony Sparano leads Miami to its first AFC East title since 2000.
First-year coach Tony Sparano leads Miami to its first AFC East title since 2000. (US Presswire)


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Related Links
Sun. Dec. 28Final
NY Jets
MIA - Pass: C. Pennington (22-30, 200), Rec: T. Ginn Jr. (2-71)
NYJ - Pass: B. Favre (20-40, 233), Rec: L. Coles (4-88)
Scoring Summary
TDLaveranues Coles, 13 Yd pass from Brett Favre , 6:47. Drive: 8 plays, 51 yards in 3:51.
TDTed Ginn Jr., 27 Yd pass from Chad Pennington (Dan Carpenter kick is good), 2:18. Drive: 6 plays, 60 yards in 2:12.
TDPhillip Merling, 25 Yd interception return (Dan Carpenter kick is good), 2:03.
FGJay Feely 28 Yd, 0:00. Drive: 10 plays, 67 yards in 2:03.
TDLeon Washington, 10 Yd run (Brett Favre pass to Jerricho Cotchery for 2 Pt. Conversion), 10:33. Drive: 5 plays, 28 yards in 2:02.
TDAnthony Fasano, 20 Yd pass from Chad Pennington (Dan Carpenter kick is good), 7:16. Drive: 6 plays, 80 yards in 3:17.
FGDan Carpenter 48 Yd, 9:20. Drive: 6 plays, 19 yards in 3:21.
Players of the Game

L. Coles
Rec 4
Yds 88
Avg 22.0
TD 1

C. Pennington
Att 30
Comp 22
Yds 200
TD 2
C. Pennington22/3020020
R. Brown0/1000
R. Brown1157023
R. Williams1050011
L. Polite61705
C. Pennington1202
B. Fields1000
T. Ginn Jr.271144
D. Bess639013
A. Fasano339120
R. Brown41505
P. Cobbs21409
B. London110010
D. Martin1808
J. Haynos1303
R. Williams1303
L. Polite1-20-2
New York
B. Favre20/4023313
B. Smith1/11800
L. Washington1060113
T. Jones102308
B. Smith1-30-3
L. Coles488127
C. Stuckey450026
J. Cotchery241026
L. Washington62909
D. Keller224015
C. Baker213012
T. Jones1101
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
WAS 24 Final
SF 27
DEN 21 Final
SD 52
SEA 21 Final
ARI 34
OAK 31 Final
TB 24
CLE 0 Final
PIT 31
DAL 6 Final
PHI 44
CAR 33 Final
NO 31
NYG 19 Final
MIN 20
TEN 0 Final
IND 23
CHI 24 Final
HOU 31
DET 21 Final
GB 31
KC 6 Final
CIN 16
NE 13 Final
JAC 7 Final
BAL 27
STL 27 Final
ATL 31