Gore moved past Curtis Martin for fourth on the career rushing list, Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes, Kenyan Drake ran for a score and the Dolphins took advantage of several mistakes by Sam Darnold and the New York Jets for a 20-12 victory Sunday.
But with the game still hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter, it was the 35-year-old Gore who reached back into his playmaking past. On third-and-19 and the Dolphins nursing an eight-point lead, Ryan Tannehill threw a short pass to Gore, who got his hands on the ball and zipped up the field for exactly 19 yards before going down.
“Frank made a heck of a catch there down low,” Tannehill said. “I was off-balance and the ball just went straight down on me. Frank did an amazing job of scooping that thing, making the catch and getting the first down.”
The Dolphins were able to then run out the clock, giving them their first 2-0 start since 2013.
“It’s kind of mind blowing,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “The team as a whole is honored to play with the guy.”
Gore, in his first season with the Dolphins and 14th in the NFL, finished with 25 yards on nine carries.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve been doubted my whole life, coming out of college (at Miami) with the injuries that I had. People were saying I would only be in the league two or three years. I’d be done. I’ve been blessed to keep going and have success.”
T.J. McDonald and Xavien Howard each intercepted Darnold, and punter Matt Haack consistently put the Jets (1-1) in lousy field position to start drives.
Tannehill finished 17 of 23 for 168 yards and also ran for 44 yards on eight carries for the Dolphins, coming off a win in the longest NFL game since 1970 merger by outlasting Tennessee in 7 hours, 8 minutes last Sunday.
“What we’re doing out there is close to what we’re looking to do,” Gase said of his team. “We just have to do a few things better.”
After a solid NFL debut, the 21-year-old Darnold struggled a bit in this one. He was 25 of 41 for 334 yards and a touchdown with the two INTs in his second NFL start, but struggled to get the offense moving.
The Jets will have a short turnaround, with New York traveling to winless Cleveland to play Thursday night.
“Just missed opportunities,” Darnold said. “I think that goes for every game where you look at all the plays you wish you could have back. Again, short week, got a game Thursday and we’ve got to right back to it tonight.”
Darnold got off to a much better start than in the Jets’ opener in Detroit, when his first NFL pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. But on the Jets’ second possession in this one, Darnold turned it over when his pass intended for Quincy Enunwa was intercepted by McDonald.
Three plays later, Drake took the handoff from Tannehill up the middle for a 6-yard run to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.
Miami took advantage of another turnover after Darnold completed a 10-yard pass to Robby Anderson, who had the ball knocked out of his hands by Kiko Alonso. Raekwon McMillan recovered for the Dolphins at the Jets 49, giving Miami a short field. Albert Wilson scored on a 29-yard catch to make it 14-0.
The Jets made another mistake that had the effect of a turnover when Henry Anderson’s sack of Tannehill on third-and-6 was negated by a holding penalty on Morris Claiborne, keeping the Dolphins’ drive alive. Two plays later, Tannehill connected with A.J. Derby for a 19-yard touchdown, although Jason Sanders missed the extra point.
New York showed some life starting with a 44-yard completion from Darnold to Terrelle Pryor. On second-and-10 from the 14, Darnold completed a short pass to Chris Herndon, who fumbled, recovered and tried to get into the end zone, but was tackled at the 1 as time expired.
Darnold and the Jets answered right back to begin the third quarter with a solid drive capped by a 28-yard touchdown catch by Bilal Powell. Jason Myers missed the extra point, making it 20-6.
The Jets, coming off a 48-17 rout of Detroit on Monday night, appeared in great shape when Jordan Jenkins forced and recovered a fumble after a strip-sack of Tannehill gave New York the ball at the Miami 12. But, Darnold’s pass to Pryor on the next play was intercepted in the end zone by Howard.
“We turned the ball over in our red zone,” coach Todd Bowles said. “We had a turnover in their red zone that led to points. We have to make sure we take care of the football.”
After Avery Williamson recovered a fumbled shotgun snap by Tannehill late in the third quarter, the Jets capped an 11-play drive with a 55-yard field goal by Myers. Myers added a 41-yarder with 5:56 remaining.
Jets TE Neal Sterling left with a concussion early in the second quarter and didn’t return.
Dolphins wide receivers Wilson and Kenny Stills were the only two players to kneel during the national anthem.
All of the Jets players linked arms, along with coach Todd Bowles and CEO Christopher Johnson while standing together on the sideline during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Dolphins: home vs. Oakland next Sunday.
Jets: at Cleveland on Thursday night.
By DENNIS WASZAK JR., AP Pro Football Writer