EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Mark Gastineau sounded like a farmer whose crop had just come in.
"You plant the seed and hope it takes," the New York Jets defensive end said after his team's masterful performance in a 23-7 victory over the befuddled Miami Dolphins Monday night.
The victory, New York's fifth in a row, lifted the Jets atop the AFC East with a 5-1 mark. It was built on a staunch defense that held Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino to only 136 yards passing--his lowest total ever as a starting pro quarterback--and the superb running of Freeman McNeil.
McNeil took over the NFL rushing leadership with 645 yards after collecting 173 yards in 28 attempts Monday night. His running and the pin-point passing of Ken O'Brien allowed New York to control the ball for more than 37 minutes against a Miami team which had won seven straight games from the Jets.
"I had to make sure the chains kept moving down the field because we couldn't give the ball back to Marino." McNeil said.
But it was the defense, mixing pass coverages and blitzes and never backing down against one of the NFL's most prolific passers, that set the tone for Miami's second loss in six games.
"We tried to show Marino a lot of different looks, tried to get him confused," Gastineau said. "If we could plant the seed of confusion, we could stop them."
Cornerback Russell Carter felt Marino was unhinged by the Jets' constant pressure, which came from all areas.
"The pressure was the most important thing, because it kept him off balance," Carter said. "At times, he may have been confused, but he's smart and he knew what he wanted to do. When you make any quarterback hurry, though, it makes a whole lot of difference."
Said Marino: "They just played great defensive football. They had a great pass-rush in my face all night and their defensive backs seem to have our guys all the time. They didn't change anything from what we expected.
"But it's not all the Jets defense. Sometimes I had plenty of time to throw, but I made the wrong decisions."
After leading 6-0 at halftime on field goals of 22 and 18 yards by Pat Leahy, New York controlled the ball for much of the second half behind McNeil's running.
New York marched 80 yards in 11 plays to open the third period. McNeil had 15 yards rushing and 33 yards on a pair of pass receptions in the drive. O'Brien, who hit 18 of 28 passes for 239 yards, then connected with Kurt Sohn on a 15-yard slant-in pattern to give the Jets a 13-0 advantage.
Miami staged its only scoring drive after that, going 73 yards in eight plays. New York had the Dolphins stopped, but Gastineau was caught offside on a third-down play and Miami got a first down.
Marino connected with Mark Clayton for 14 yards, then frustrated a Jet blitz with a flair pass to Tony Nathan for 25 more yards. Rookie Ron Davenport carried in from the three on the next play for the touchdown.
O'Brien then led the Jets on a 79-yard drive highlighted by McNeil runs of 17, 10 and 9 yards. On first down from the Miami seven, Tony Paige was stopped after a two-yard gain and the Dolphins came up with the ball. After a short discussion, the officials ruled there had been no fumble.
Leahy connected from 18 yards moments later to make it 16-7.
The Jets, who scored on their first three second-half possessions, then went 62 yards in 10 plays to clinch it. McNeil ran for 36 yards on that drive, which was capped by Paige's one-yard scoring run.
McNeil now has rushed for more than 100 yards against Miami four times, the only running back to do so.
Marino was 13 of 23 for 136 yards, the lowest yardage he has compiled in a game in two years.
An aggressive Jets defense kept Marino and the Dolphins off balance in the first half. Although Marino was sacked only once--for 10 yards by Barry Bennett--the Jets continually made Marino hurry his throws.
The Dolphins had two sustained drives in the first half. The first one fizzled on the Miami 37 and the other, which began at the Dolphin 1, reached only the 38.
Jet punter Dave Jennings twice pinned Miami deep in its territory. In addition to a 36-yard punt that was downed on the 1, Jennings was helped by a long bounce off the artificial turf for a 66-yard kick.
At halftime, Joe Namath's No. 12 jersey was retired, and the former Jets quarterback received a ring marking his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.