Brandon Marshall hit the ground hard, tackled by two opponents, yet bounced up laughing and waving his fists, glad to be a go-to guy once again.
The two-time Pro Bowler looked the part in his first home game for the Miami Dolphins. He caught 10 passes for 166 yards and a score Sunday night, keeping the Dolphins in the game until the final seconds of their 31-23 loss to the New York Jets.
Even for a running team like the Dolphins, Marshall offers an irresistibly inviting target. They threw to him 17 times, while running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for only 18 carries.
It suggests a transition to a more balanced attack for Miami.
“We’re the type of offense where we’re going to take what defenses give us,” Marshall said. “We just take advantage of whatever is there.”
The question going forward, starting with this Monday night's game against New England, is whether opponents will put a priority on stopping Marshall or Miami's stout ground game.
In the first two weeks of the season, the Dolphins averaged 135 yards passing per game – and won at Buffalo and at Minnesota. Against the Jets, Chad Henne threw 44 times for a career-high 363 yards – and Miami lost. That leaves the Dolphins tied with the Patriots and Jets for the lead in the AFC East.
Despite the defeat, the game against the Jets confirmed the Dolphins have the kind of receiving threat they've long lacked. The 6-foot-4 Marshall was a possession target, with eight of his 10 catches good for first downs and he also provided the big play missing from Miami's offense in recent years.
“Brandon Marshall is a nightmare to cover,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “He has the great size, the body control, the speed. He has everything.”
Photo: Brandon Marshall