In the early going of the second quarter, veteran Cameron Wake bulldozed his way through the New York Jets offensive line and ran straight for the rookie quarterback.
Before Sam Darnold could blink, the Miami Dolphins defensive lineman slammed him into the ground and let out a ferocious yell.
Wake was due for a game like this, a two-sack outing that also included four quarterback hits in Miami’s 13-6 win over the Jets in which the defense confused Darnold all day.
But don’t look to Wake to give himself a pat on the back after the game.
“It’s just another performance,” Wake said. “Football is an interesting thing. You go out there sometimes and the ball bounces your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. There are days you get pressure and no sacks, and some days you get sacks and no pressure. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”
It hadn’t bounced Wake’s way through the first half of the 2018 season. In addition to missing two games due to a knee injury, Wake had recorded just one sack through his first six games.
Sunday turned into his opportunity to restore the order, a chance to show that the five-time Pro Bowler still had it in him to make an impact, even at 36 years old and midway through his 10th season in the league.
“I’m going to throw you my fastball the first time I get an opportunity to see if you can handle it, plain and simple,” Wake said. “I feel like in this game, you’re going to have a guy across from you and he’s probably going to think there’s no way this guy can get past me, and I don’t feel like there’s any tackle in the league that can block me. … I’m going to give it everything I got.
“You better be ready for a 100 mile per hour fastball every time.”
Darnold felt that pressure all game.
Miami left the field Sunday with a season-high four sacks — two each by Wake and defensive tackle Akeem Spence — as well as six tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits. Their pressure also paved the way for the rest of the defense to haul in four interceptions, including a game-winning pick-six from rookie Jerome Baker early in the fourth quarter.
Darnold finished with a season-low 31.8 quarterback rating.
“Everybody looks at numbers, but we look at how we affect the quarterback,” defensive end Andre Branch said. “Everybody wants us to have high sack numbers, but if we affect the quarterback and the back end gets picks, that’s fine with us.”
Wake took it a step further.
“The whole point is to get off the field,” Wake said. “Obviously, pressure is great. You want to get the guy, whoever has the ball, off his rhythm, off his spot, maybe mess up the timing, all that. At the end of the day, third down, you want to get off the field. Sacks are a good way to get that done. We got good pressure today.”
Regardless, this was a performance Wake personally — and the defense as a whole — needed after giving up an average of 450.3 yards per game over the past three weeks.
On Sunday, they held the Jets to 282 yards and a 2-of-13 conversion rate on third down.
“I’m not a guy that counts stats,” Wake said, “but everybody playing together and pulling out a win, that’s what’s rewarding.”