Ryan Fitzpatrick blocked on a running play, improvised a left-handed completion and led cheers for his replacement during mop-up time Sunday.
Least remarkably, he beat the New York Jets. Everybody is doing that.
Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passesagainst one of his many former teams, and the Miami Dolphins held the winless Jets without a third-down conversionuntil the fourth quarter to get their first shutout in six years, 24-0.
“We’re still a work in progress, but we’re definitely heading in the right direction,” Fitzpatrick said. “
Rookie Tua Tagovailoa made his NFL debut as Fitzpatrick's replacement with 2:27 left. The Dolphins’ potential franchise quarterback ran onto the field to a big roar from the crowd of 10,772, and a grinning Fitzpatrick waved to encourage more cheers.
The Dolphins (3-3) reached .500 for the first time under second-year coach Brian Flores and moved into second place in the AFC East behind Buffalo. The Jets (0-6) became the NFL's only winless team and continued their worst start since 1996, increasing the heat on embattled second-year coach Adam Gase.
“We haven’t done anything well this year at all,” Gase said. “We just hurt ourselves so much.”
He said he wasn't thinking about whether his job might be in jeopardy.
The Dolphins blanked the Jets for the first time since the January 1983 AFC championship game, which they won 14-0.
The teams were a combined 0 for 19 on third downs before the Jets finally converted with 11 minutes left. The Dolphins' only third-down conversion came on a completion by Tagovailoa, who went 2 for 2 for 9 yards.
After the game, Tagovailoa spent about several minutes sitting alone on the field and on his phone with his parents.
“It was a very special moment for me because my parents weren’t here,” Tagovailoa said. “I sat close to where I think our last drive ended, and I FaceTimed my parents. It was exciting to get out there. It was really fun. My parents were happy to see me out there playing again.”
Fitzpatrick was 18 for 27 for 191 yards for Miami. He also blocked for Myles Gaskins on a run and flipped a left-handed completion under pressure for a short gain.
Joe Flacco, making his second start for the injured Sam Darnold, went 21 for 44 for 186 and an interception. He was sacked three times, once by Emmanuel Ogbah for 28yards.
“It was a tough game. It was ugly,” Flacco said. “We didn’t play well. They came after us and we just weren’t able to get a lot going.”
The Jets, who released running back Le’Veon Bell on Tuesday, had 115 yards rushing.
“We’ve got a lot of things to fix on offense,” Gase said. “We've got to get back to work."
The Dolphins built a 21-0 lead in the first half. Fitzpatrick threw three short touchdown passes each from inside the 5-yard line. Adam Shaheen, Preston Williams and Durham Smythe each caught a touchdown pass.
The Jets’ Marcus Maye made a bizarre interception on a Fitzpatrick pass intended for Preston Williams. The ball went up in the air and Maye was able to corral the loose ball by reaching behind his back and cradling the ball against his backside.
“I was there ready for it,” Maye said.
Xavien Howard’s second-quarter interception of Flacco's pass was his fourth of the season, and gives him an interception in four straight games, the second-longest streak in Dolphins history. Dick Westmoreland had a five-game streak in 1967.
JUST FOR KICKS
Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders is 15 for 15 on field goal tries, a franchise record to start a season. Jets K Sam Ficken had made all nine of his field-goal attempts and his six extra-point attempts coming into the game, but missed a 55-yarder in the third quarter.
Jest: LB Frankie Luvu suffered a groin injury and did not return. … T Chuma Edoga left with a calf injury and did not return. … OL Alex Lewis left with a shoulder injury.
Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker suffered a groin injury. DT Raekwon Davis hurt his shoulder. LB Andrew Van Ginkel left with a concussion in the second quarter and did not return.
Running back Ty Jackson was the only player kneeling for the Jets during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Dolphins stayed in the locker room.
The Dolphins have a bye and then host the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 1.
The Jets host Buffalo next Sunday. The Bills won 27-17 when the teams met in Week 1.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine