MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The handshakes and backslaps exchanged in the Miami Dolphins' locker room late Sunday afternoon were gestures of consolation, not celebration, before players quietly slipped out the back door at the end of another disappointing season.
Miami was eliminated from the scramble for the AFC's final wild-card berth by the New York Jets, who thrived in the role of spoilers against their archrivals and won 20-7. The Dolphins blew an early lead to complete a December collapse that will keep them out of the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
"It's definitely going to take a little while to get over this one," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
New York's Geno Smith led three long scoring drives, ran for a touchdown and threw for 190 yards, while two interceptions by rookie Dee Milliner and one by 35-year-old Ed Reed prevented a Miami comeback.
The Dolphins (8-8) squandered a shot at their first postseason berth since 2008 by losing the final two games to non-playoff teams, including a shutout defeat at last-place Buffalo. It was a dismal end to a roller-coaster season that included a four-game losing streak, a bullying scandal that drew national scrutiny, and a December surge that briefly left the Dolphins in control of their playoff destiny — but turned out to be a tease.
"Our record is 8-8, and that's the definition of average," cornerback Brent Grimes said. "We felt like we could be a much better than average team, so we're disappointed. We messed up in the last two games. We've just got to live with that."
The Dolphins were outscored 39-7 in those final two games. Now owner Stephen Ross must decide whether to shake up a regime led by second-year coach Joe Philbin and sixth-year general manager Jeff Ireland.
"You have to earn your way into the playoffs. Clearly we didn't do that," Philbin said. "The results start with me. The head coach is responsible for the results. The offense, the defense, the special teams, the record — it starts with me. Let's not stand here and blame the players."
The Jets (8-8) celebrated as though they're playoff-bound but will sit out the postseason for the third year in a row. After the game, owner Woody Johnson announced that coach Rex Ryan would return for a sixth season in 2014.
Ryan, whose future had been in question, said Johnson gave him the news before the game. When players were told afterward, they cheered in the locker room.
"I'll say this — I love being the head coach of the New York Jets, plain and simple," Ryan said. "You put everything you've got into it. I never wanted to go out this way. We've missed the playoffs three straight years, and that bothers me, no question."