When Jay Ajayi busted his final run of the day for 16 yards, he stood facing the cheering crowd and pumped both fists, a picture of perseverance rewarded.
The Miami Dolphins stuck with their ground game Sunday, even when it was going nowhere, and eventually Ajayi found enough holes to finish off the New York Jets , 27-23.
“His job is to keep hammering it and wait until the fourth quarter,” coach Adam Gase said. “If teams can stay with him, and they can tackle him, then they’re probably going to win the game.”
Thanks to Gase’s newfound ground attack, the Dolphins (4-4) have won three consecutive games to climb into a tie for second place in the AFC East. The Jets (3-6) slipped into the cellar with their quarterback situation again muddled.
Here are things to know about the Dolphins’ come-from-behind win:
FINISHING STRONG: Ajayi came up short in his bid to become the first NFL rusher to reach 200 yards three games in a row. But he netted 111 yards against the league’s top run defense to become the first Dolphin since Reggie Bush in 2011 to run for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games.
He has totaled 529 yards rushing in the past three games.
“We knew we were going against a good challenge today,” Ajayi said. “Although we couldn’t get to 200, I still felt we had a good game on the ground. The O-line still did a good job of pushing penetration. We were able to finish the game strong.”
Ajayi was hit behind the line on many of his 24 carries, but it was the Jets who wore down, and he rushed for 55 yards in the fourth quarter.
HOBBLED QB: The Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick was limping after another shaky game , which included two costly interceptions and two fumbles when he was sacked by Cameron Wake. Fitzpatrick had a passer rating of 63.5, but coach Todd Bowles said he’ll remain the starter — assuming he’s healthy.
Fitzpatrick missed four plays midway through the second half because of a left knee injury and wore an ice pack afterward. He said he’ll undergo an MRI exam Monday.
“I just kind of got hit low and rolled up on it,” he said. “I went to the sideline and put a brace on it. They checked it out and then I went back in.”
OTHER INJURIES: Jets cornerback Marcus Williams (ankle) left in the first quarter, and linebacker Josh Martin (concussion) missed the second half. Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion and hand) and receiver Kenny Stills (illness) left in the second quarter.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Jets fell five games behind AFC East leader New England (7-1) in the loss column, and while they still have two games to play against the Patriots, postseason hopes are fading fast.
“I’m upset, I’m disappointed,” receiver Brandon Marshall said. “I’m trying to be a pro here and answer the questions. This game had huge implications.”
The Jets play host to the Rams on Sunday.
DOLPHINS HIT THE ROAD: The Dolphins went 3-1 during a league-record 44-day homestand. They play the next two weeks at San Diego and at Los Angeles, and will stay in California between games.
“This is what we wanted to do — we wanted to make sure we were 4-4 going on a West Coast trip,” center Mike Pouncey said. “It’s going to be a true test for our team to be out there for 11 days and try to win two games back to back.”
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