MIAMI – Jason Taylor likely had some uneasiness facing the Miami Dolphins. Braylon Edwards simply made it look easy.
Suspended for the first quarter following a drunken-driving arrest, Edwards hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass and the New York Jets held a 21-20 lead over the Dolphins after three quarters Sunday night.
It was Edwards' sixth touchdown against the Dolphins, the most he's had against any opponent, and he's only faced them five times.
Mark Sanchez threw for all three of the Jets' touchdowns, the first two going to Dustin Keller in the game's first 17 minutes. It was the first multi-TD game of Keller's career, and he staked the Jets to a quick 14-0 lead.
There was plenty of intrigue before the game, primarily for two reasons: Taylor's homecoming and Edwards' saga. Taylor had a sack in the opening minutes, drawing the ire of Miami fans for the first time in his professional life, and Edwards almost single-handedly swung momentum back the Jets' way in the third quarter.
Brandon Marshall's first touchdown with Miami put the Dolphins on top 17-14 with 8:47 left in the third. They held the lead for all of 18 seconds.
New York began the ensuing possession at its own 33, and Dolphins cornerback Jason Allen lined up about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Edwards caught a relatively short pass from Sanchez, whirled and beat Allen with ease, then streaked down the left sideline untouched to re-claim the Jets' lead.
Dan Carpenter added a 20-yard field goal for Miami later in the third, cutting the Jets' edge to 21-20.
Down 14-0, Miami got a 3-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Anthony Fasano, and Carpenter's 44-yard field goal cut the Jets' lead to four. New York's Nick Folk tried a 61-yard field goal on the final play of the half, getting it blocked by Yeremiah Bell — who was beaten on Keller's first TD grab of the night.
Taylor made his presence felt, too. He forced Henne into an errant third-down incompletion on Miami's first drive. And the real fireworks came a bit later when Taylor sacked Henne, then did his celebratory punch — followed by an arms-spread-wide pose as he got booed following a good play for the first time in the Dolphins' home stadium.
If nothing else, it might have taken attention off the Jets' latest distraction: the Edwards situation.
The Jets announced about 90 minutes before kickoff they were benching Edwards for the first quarter, as punishment following his arrest for drunken-driving in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. As soon as the clock showed :00 to end the opening quarter, Edwards marched onto the field.
"We've made our disappointment clear to Braylon," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement released by the team. "Now he must deal with the consequences of his actions as the legal process runs its course, and the league will determine the appropriate discipline under the guidelines of the collective bargaining agreement."
It was Miami's home opener, and the crowd was star-studded.
Fergie and Marc Anthony performed the national anthem, Gloria and Emilio Estefan posed for countless photos on their way in, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — who open camp with the Miami Heat — were milling about.
Taylor was the Jets' lone representative for the pregame coin toss, drawing a modest chorus of boos — which he neatly avoided after warming up a half-hour earlier by leaving the field at the same time his former team was going through the tunnel toward the locker rooms.
He spent 12 of his first 13 NFL seasons with the Dolphins, and was an absolute thorn to the Jets. He had 100 tackles, more than he posted against any other opponent, against the team that he once professed to hate.
But when Bill Parcells didn't offer Taylor a contract for 2010, the NFL's active sacks leader had to change course. And that led to Taylor deciding his long chase of a Super Bowl ring would continue with the Jets, a surprising new chapter in the long New York-Miami rivalry.