MIAMI (AP) — Say this for the New York Jets: They went down fighting.
Receiver and captain Santonio Holmes was benched following a squabble in the huddle late in the fourth quarter, and the Jets were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday when they lost to the Miami Dolphins 19-17.
Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions, the last coming with the Jets threatening to take a late lead. New York gave up six third-down conversions during the Dolphins’ 21-play, 94-yard drive for their only touchdown.
Holmes was held without a catch for the first time in his 88-game career. He went to the sideline after arguing with teammates, and running back LaDainian Tomlinson said they were unhappy about Holmes’ effort, demeanor and body language.
“It’s tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner,” Tomlinson said. “You’ve got to lead by example, and you’ve got to play your tail off until the last play.”
So goes the soap opera under coach Rex Ryan, who had guaranteed a Super Bowl title. Instead the Jets (8-8) finished the season with three consecutive defeats, a big step backward for a team that reached the AFC championship game each of the past two years.
“I’m always going to chase the Super Bowl,” Ryan said. “I know I get criticized for it beyond belief, but if you don’t, then you’re probably a loser, OK? I’m not a loser.”
While the Dolphins came together late in the season, the Jets fell apart. They went into the game needing a win along with losses by three other teams to earn a wild-card berth, but looked nothing like a playoff team.
When asked if the effort in the finale was sufficient, cornerback Antonio Cromartie said: “Uh, maybe on one side of the ball.”
On offense, there were issues. Following Holmes’ spat with teammates, he was replaced by Patrick Turner.
“It was a coach’s call,” Holmes said. “Patrick came in and tapped me on the shoulder and told me to come out.”
Ryan said he thought Holmes took himself out of the game.
“I looked out there and was wondering why he wasn’t out there,” the coach said.
Said Tomlinson: “Whenever you don’t win, the problems you’re having start to creep in and peek their heads out.”