In striking range, Dolphins thrilled to be 2-3

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

MIAMI -- The mood in the Miami Dolphins' locker room was joyous. You could feel the combination of relief, excitement and confidence.

Never have they felt so good about a losing record.

"I'm very thrilled," nose tackle Jason Ferguson said after Monday night's dramatic 31-27 victory over the New York Jets in Land Shark Stadium. "We're almost peeping out the hole."

Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown punched in a Wildcat run from 2 yards out for the winning touchdown with six seconds left on the game clock. The thrilling finish capped a frenetic fourth quarter that involved five lead changes and injected life into a team that appeared to have flat-lined.

"Oh, we're where we want to be," Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter said.

You can sense it in the Dolphins' locker room: They know they're good.

Yet three weeks into the season, the Dolphins were afterthoughts. They were winless. Chad Pennington, their quarterback and leader, was done for the year with a shoulder injury. A hamstring injury sidelined Porter, their defensive engine.

The outlook was remarkably bleak for the defending AFC East champs.

Check where they are now: they head into their bye week an unimpressive 2-3 in the standings, but back in the divisional race with a bullet.

The Dolphins are one game out of first place. The Jets and New England Patriots are tied at 3-2, but they each have a division loss. The Dolphins are the lone AFC East team without one.

"This is a crazy feeling, but it could have been worse," Porter said. "For it to happen like it did, I'd definitely take 2-3 over 1-4."

The defensive-oriented Dolphins and Jets weren't supposed to take torches to the silos, but a barn burner it was, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Miami quarterback Chad Henne was sensational. In his second pro start, Pennington's heir completed 20 of 26 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

ESPN Stats & Information broke down Henne's numbers and found that he completed all seven of his play-action pass attempts for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

"We made that quarterback look like Dan Marino," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "He was pretty good, though. He deserves credit. ... It was just a horrendous day for our defense."

The Jets didn't have any better luck stopping the Wildcat.

The Dolphins called their direct-snap offense 16 times for 110 yards from scrimmage, six first downs and the winning touchdown.

"That was our offense," Porter said with a grin. "So to all the Wildcat haters, and to say our offense is a fluke: Keep thinking it's a fluke if you want to."

Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was decent in bouncing back from his dreadful performance in the Week 4 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Sanchez completed half of his 24 attempts for 172 yards and one touchdown without an interception.

Sanchez didn't hesitate to look for Braylon Edwards, acquired in a trade from the Cleveland Browns five days earlier. Edwards was astounding. He finished with five receptions, a couple of them sensational, for 64 yards and a touchdown.

But each time the Jets delivered a staggering blow, the Dolphins countered with an uppercut. Much like the season, these Dolphins refuse to go down.

It would've been easy to crumble. They looked pedestrian in their season-opening defeat to the Atlanta Falcons, held the ball for a jaw-dropping 45:07 yet still managed to lose at home to the Indianapolis Colts and tumbled to 0-3 with a loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Pennington -- and Miami's playoff hopes -- departed San Diego in a sling. Since the NFL went to its current playoff format in 1990, three teams have opened a season 0-3 and reached the playoffs. None have advanced to the Super Bowl.

The Dolphins, however, did not waver. They have faith all things are possible and don't have to think back too far for evidence of miracles. They pulled off the greatest turnaround in NFL history last year, rebounding from one victory in 2007 to win the division.

"There are a lot of guys that were on that 1-15 team," Porter said. "We easily could've had that thought in our mind that is was over. We lost Chad. I was hurt. Everything just wasn't going in our favor.

"We easily could've hung our heads, but we have coaches and players on this team with a belief that we can win."