EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., NOV. 11 -- The Miami Dolphins have a new nickname for their defense: the Miami Pound Machine. New York Jets quarterback Ken O'Brien has the words to describe the Dolphins and their defense: "They're for real."

Behind a revitalized defense ranked first in the NFL, the Dolphins still are trying to get people to take them seriously, even though they are 8-1 after a 17-3 victory over the Jets (4-6) today. The triumph may not help them in earning more widespread respect, but it was pretty to watch.

The Dolphins choked the Jets, getting five sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery to run their streak of quarters without allowing a touchdown to 12. No team has scored a rushing touchdown against Miami in 24 quarters.

It got so bad some of the 68,362 at Giants Stadium began to throw toilet paper into the air.

Miami, off to its best nine-game opening record since 1984, is tied with Buffalo for the lead in the AFC East. The Dolphins will face the AFC West-leading Los Angeles Raiders next Monday night.

"We can take on anybody, anywhere, any time," said Dolphins linebacker E. J. Junior, who had one of the sacks.

"People may not say we deserve to be in the position we're in, but we're 8-1 and a lot of teams are behind us looking forward."

A team leading the league in quarterback sacks (35) and possessing the arm of Dan Marino (21 of 36 for 192 yards, one touchdown today) normally does not have an identity crisis. But there have been questions about Miami's weak schedule, and linebacker David Griggs said a 20-3 loss to the undefeated New York Giants is something critics point to and say, "See what happens when you play a real team."

Miami looked as if it could have beat anybody today.

Besides being sacked five times, O'Brien was held to 106 yards on 12-of-25 passing. Running back Freeman McNeil rushed for 37 yards on six carries.

"We had plenty of opportunities but we can't blame anybody but ourselves," O'Brien said. "We have to get a lot better. But they're for real."

It took a half for the Dolphins to show it on offense. The halftime score was 3-3, with field goals by the Dolphins' Pete Stoyanovich (23 yards) and the Jets' Pat Leahy (24).

"The Jets were taking it to us early," said running back Troy Stratford, who had a career-high seven receptions. "They were hanging tough."

But the Jets committed several mental errors that led to Miami points.

The first came with 12:18 left in the third quarter. Reggie Roby's punt was carried downfield quickly in the 25 mph wind, perhaps too quickly for Jets cornerback James Hasty. He didn't get out of the way after the ball bounced on the turf and it hit his right foot at the 17-yard line and landed in the hands of Miami's Greg Baty at the 6.

"I saw {the ball} hit the guy and bounce straight up," Baty said. "The first thing I thought was touchdown."

Said Jets Coach Bruce Coslet: "It was a bad play by us."

It took Marino just two plays to get it into the end zone, on a four-yard bullet to fullback Tony Paige.

Late in the third quarter O'Brien's pass to tight end Mark Boyer was tipped to cornerback Tim McKyer. While running it back, McKyer had the ball knocked loose. Replays showed it bounced in bounds and was recovered by the Jets' Johnny Hector.

The officials first ruled it was Dolphins ball.

Replay official Bill Swanson reversed the call.

Then the officials reversed the reversal, saying there was an inadvertent whistle.

"No comment," Coslet said.

Jets tackle Brett Miller said: "I was sure we had the ball. I never heard a whistle."

The Dolphins took over at the New York 34, with reserve fullback Mark Logan eventually taking the ball in from the 1 to give Miami a 17-3 lead with 12:47 left.

"You like to think you can capitalize when you get the opportunity and not make mistakes yourself," Miami Coach Don Shula said. "We managed to do that, but I never felt safe. We were never comfortable. Their offense makes big plays."

The Miami Pound Machine's beat goes on.