Another week, another improbable victory
After blowing a 16 point 4th quarter lead, Mark Sanchez found Santonio Holmes in the endzone with 10 seconds remaining to give the Jets a 30-27 victory.
For most of the game, it looked like the Jets were the better team, but not by enough to get a comfortable lead. The Jets failed to convert in the red zone in two of their three first half opportunities, only giving themselves a 13-7 lead at the break. When Sanchez found Holmes for a 41-yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter, it looked like things might finally be easy. The Jets took a 23-7 lead early in the 4th quarter, and it looked like the Jets would win fairly comfortably.
Not so fast. Houston marched down the field quickly to kick a field goal. Then Shonn Greene fumbled. All of a sudden, Joel Dreessen was running wide open down the left sideline into the endzone, and it was a 6 point game. With nearly a touchdown lead, the Jets still had their chances, but a special teams penalty put the Jets back at their own 9 yardline, and the offense was soon forced to punt.
The Texans got the ball back needing a touchdown, down by 6 with 6:09 to go. In 7 plays, Matt Schaub efficiently moved the ball 62 yards to the Jets' 11 yardline. Arian Foster took care of it from there, punching the ball into the endzone with 2:18 left.
Needing just one point with two time outs left, the Jets still had a great chance to win. But another special teams penalty pinned the Jets back at their own 23. Two plays later, Sanchez was hurried and threw an ill-advised interception to linebacker Kevin Bentley. With just two time outs left and the two minute warning past, it looked dire for the Jets. But the defense held, limiting Houston to a field goal.
With 49 seconds left, Sanchez took over. He twice checked down to Tomlinson to get chunks of yardage, to get into Texan territory. After an incompletion, Sanchez found a streaking Edwards down the sideline for a huge 42 yard gain to set the Jets up with a chance. The next play, Sanchez hit Holmes on a well-timed fade in the endzone to win the game.
It shouldn't have come down to that. That's obvious. But good teams find ways to win games they have no business winning. The Jets should have won this game easily with a 16 point lead in the 4th quarter, but after blowing it, the team had the cool to find a way back and find a way to win the game. Houston is a team that has a history of blowing games late. The Jets used to. Today showed the Jets may have finally moved past that.
The communication issues on defense need to be fixed. There have been problems all year long with blown coverages, with today's game having the most blatant one all year when Dreessen was left wide open. That simply can't happen. Neither can Schaub's next drive, where he took his team 73 yards without even having to deal with a 3rd down.
This also marks the 5th straight game the Jets failed to get an interception. For a defense that wants to make big plays, they make very few. They forced another fumble today, but opposing quarterbacks are rarely pressured, so they continue to have time to make precise throws against the Jets' secondary. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are great cornerbacks, but without pressure, it's hard for either to make interceptions, and it's easier for quarterbacks to check down to other options.
The offense also has its fair share of issues, particularly in the running game. Sanchez again was hit and miss in the passing game, but when the game was on the line, he delivered again. Against the worst pass defense in the NFL, he should be putting up good numbers though.
The bigger issue is the lack of a running game. Greene and Tomlinson combined for just 78 yards on 27 carries, and Greene's fumble today caused this game to turn. He doesn't fumble enough where he's earned a big reputation as a fumbler, but that is his 2nd this year. Tomlinson made some plays in the passing game, but there just weren't many holes to run through.
Damien Woody's absence was clearly felt. He injured his MCL early in the game. Backup Wayne Hunter was an obvious downgrade, but the line still needs to do a better job creating holes. If Woody misses significant time, that's a big blow. He isn't ruling himself out for the Thanksgiving game against the Bengals, but considering he didn't return to the game Sunday and the short week of rest, it would seem unlikely he would suit up.
Despite all the warts, the Jets played very well in spurts. Both sides of the ball are creating as many questions as they are answering, but despite it all, the Jets still have the best record in the NFL at 8-2. Unfortunately, New England keeps winning also, beating Indianapolis Sunday. The two teams are on a collision course for that game Monday December 6th. Like the Jets, the Patriots will play on Thanksgiving, traveling to Detroit. If both teams take care of business Thursday, that game will likely decide the division, especially if the Jets win and sweep the season series. However, if the Jets don't play better, and play for all 60 minutes, they probably won't be able to beat New England.