EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Jets have heard all the negative narratives for months.
They’re tanking the season. They’re a shoo-in for the No. 1 draft pick. They might go 0-16.
With one defiant — and dominant — performance, the Jets put at least one of those predictions to rest.
Josh McCown threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson, Bilal Powell ran for a score, and the defense frustrated Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins in a stunning 20-6 victory Sunday in New York’s home opener.
“We block all that stuff out,” coach Todd Bowles said. “That has nothing to do with our motivation to win. We’re trying to win ballgames because we want to get to the Super Bowl, not because we want to prove people wrong.”
There have been plenty of doubters, though. And losses in their first two games did little to sway them.
This win, though, showed that the Jets aren’t necessarily going to be an easy out on the schedule.
“We’ve always had confidence,” said rookie safety Jamal Adams, who had one of the Jets’ three sacks. “We’re not where we want to be, but this is the start of it.”
McCown has been efficient in his first three games with the Jets, finishing this one 18 of 23 for 249 yards. Chandler Catanzaro kicked two field goals, and the Jets (1-2) made Cutler and the Dolphins (1-1) uncomfortable all game. The Jets also avoided their first 0-3 start since 2003.
“Relief? Great feeling? Whatever you want to say,” McCown said. “When you win, it’s a great feeling. Internally, there’s a method that we go about, and then there’s obviously an external narrative that people have for this team. We’ve not bought that.
“So, for us, to say it’s a relief, it was not an expectation that it was going to be hard to win a game this year. We expected to win games. We expect to win a lot of games.”
So do the Dolphins, but they looked dismal on offense and the defense couldn’t make big stops when Miami needed them.
“They just beat the (heck) out of us,” coach Adam Gase said. “That’s the best way to put it. We didn’t show up, didn’t play physical.”
Some things to know from the Jets’ victory over the Dolphins:
UNITY: All of the Jets stood for the national anthem, with their arms interlocked. Acting chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson locked his arms with both McCown and Adams. Johnson’s brother Woody is the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. in President Donald Trump’s administration.
“It meant everything because it starts at the top,” McCown said of Christopher Johnson standing with the team. “He came around and talked to some guys before the game about being there. So that was, for me, over my career one of the more special things.”
Most of Miami’s players also stood with their arms locked together, and owner Stephen Ross joined them. At least four players — Julius Thomas, Laremy Tunsil, Maurice Smith and Kenny Stills — took a knee during the anthem.
SO CLOSE: New York just missed having its first shutout since blanking Cincinnati 37-0 on Jan. 13, 2010. Cutler threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker on the final play. Cody Parkey missed the extra point, though. It also would’ve been the Jets’ first blanking of the Dolphins since 2001.
“They came out and played hard and with a lot of passion,” Bowles said of his defense. “They gave up one at the end, but for the most part, they played a good ballgame.”
AWFUL DOLPHINS: Cutler, making his second start for Miami, struggled to connect with his receivers throughout.
That was only part of the issues for Miami, which failed to convert its first eight third-down opportunities. The Dolphins didn’t get one until early in the fourth quarter, and finished 1 for 12.
Meanwhile, Cutler was 26 of 44 for 220 yards with an interception and the late TD toss. Miami was outgained in total yards 336-225.
“I think that game was a wakeup call for us,” Cutler said. “We can’t just roll it out there and expect it to happen.”
SHUT DOWN: After running for 122 yards in the Dolphins’ opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, Jay Ajayi managed just 16 yards on 11 carries against the Jets.
“You watched the game,” Gase said. “He couldn’t get through anything. Guys were in the backfield so fast.”
INJURIES: Bowles said Jets running back Matt Forte will have X-rays on an injured toe that caused him to sit out most of the second half. Forte finished with 25 yards on eight carries.
Outside linebacker Josh Martin and wide receiver Charone Peake both left with ankle injuries. Bowles said they also will have X-rays taken.
Dolphins safety Nate Allen left with a hamstring injury.