In a game that was eerily similar in many ways to one three weeks ago against Denver, the Jets once again escaped with a road victory, 23-20 over the Detroit Lions. The Jets made a million mistakes and in many ways did not deserve to win this football game, but in crunchtime, Mark Sanchez and the defense made just enough plays to win.
Sanchez was again hot-and-cold, locking on targets and making poor decisions and throws for the majority of the game. He did hit Braylon Edwards in stride on a 74-yard touchdown bomb late in the first half to give the Jets the lead at halftime. But he also ended a promising third quarter drive with a badly underthrown interception.
This was a bizarre game from the start. The Jets' defense, which allowed just 3 points all year in the 1st quarter (all last week), allowed an opening drive touchdown to Matthew Stafford and the Lions. It was deja vu all over again, as the Jets could not get off the field on 3rd and long. On the first drive alone, the Jets allowed conversions on 3rd and 10, 15, and 9, with the last one coming on an illegal contact penalty on Brodney Pool. Finally, Stafford found tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the endzone for a touchdown.
The Jets' first positive drive was midway through the 2nd quarter, after Sanchez found Holmes for a 31-yard gain. That drive ended in a field goal after Sanchez audibled too late and wasn't ready for Nick Mangold's snap. The Jets' first real strike came on the bomb to Edwards with one minute left in the half, which gave the Jets a 10-7 lead into the half.
That was the last we would see of the Jets' offense until late. The defense allowed a touchdown on the Lions' first drive of the second half to lose the lead, with another stupid mistake being at the root of the score. The Jets originally held the Lions to a 21-yard field goal, but Trevor Pryce roughed up kicker Jason Hanson, hurting Hanson's knee in the process. Stafford then ran the ball into the endzone on the next play. However, with Hanson banged up, Ndamukong Suh had to kick the extra point. He clanged it off the post, a missed point which ended up costing the Lions dearly. Still, the Jets had more to regret, as they should have been off the field with the score 10-10, instead of trailing 13-10.
Nate Burleson then scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 3rd down play to extend the Lions lead to 10. Burleson burned Drew Coleman often throughout the game, finishing with 113 yards and a touchdown. Rex Ryan's team also burned two time outs on that failed goalline stand, as the Jets lined up with 12 men on the field on two separate occasions.
Those time outs ended up being very important. Trailing by two scores, the Jets couldn't get back on the board until there was just 2:46 left on the clock. Really, there were about 3 minutes left on the clock, but it took the referees 14 seconds to decide whether or not to grant the Jets a touchdown on Sanchez's sneak, and they didn't put the time back on the clock. With just one time out remaining for the Jets, that could have been a major issue.
Ryan opted to put faith in his defense, kicking the ball deep. But returner Stefan Logan returned the ball to the 34-yardline, giving the Lions okay field position. One first down would have won the game, but even running the ball three times would leave the Jets barely over a minute left to try to get the game-tying field goal. The defense held on the first two down, and on third down, the Lions inexplicably threw the ball. With Stafford knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury, the Lions called a screen pass with third-string quarterback Drew Stanton, who made a bad throw, and the clock stopped with about 1:50 left, rather than running off 40 more seconds.
Sanchez took advantage of his last chance to tie the game. On 3rd-and-9, he threw a bullet to Dustin Keller, who made a stellar catch to move the chains for 11 yards. With some help from the Lions' defense committing a late hit penalty to move the Jets into field goal range, Sanchez engineered a drive to the Lions' 18-yardline where Nick Folk kicked the game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime.
The Jets won the toss, and almost immediately, Sanchez hit Holmes over the middle on a crossing route. Holmes shook a defender and by the time he was brought down, he traveled 52 yards into the red zone. Three plays later, Folk kicked a 30-yarder, and the Jets somehow came away with a victory.
While the Jets can be happy they played their C-game and won on the road, this team needs to play better soon. The last three games this team has played have all been very spotty. Next week, the Jets will face a Cleveland team that just smacked around the Patriots 34-14. Clearly, the Browns are no longer a pushover. The Browns just shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots, the Jets can't play the same way and expect to win.
The defense wasn't bad, but the lack of big plays is beginning to become an issue. Once again, the Jets did not force a single turnover, so the Lions made all their yards count. Most of the Lions' big plays were made by Nate Burleson in three receiver sets. He consistently got the better of Drew Coleman. Darrelle Revis was matched up almost all game with Calvin Johnson one-on-one, and "Megatron" ended with just one catch for 13 yards.
However, for as ugly as it was, the Jets ended up successful. Good teams find ways to win these games, and that's exactly what the Jets did for the second time in three games. With the Patriots' loss, the Jets are now tied for first place again in the AFC East and in the race for the number one seed. And with Cleveland on deck followed by home games against Houston and Cincinnati, the Jets could be able to go on another winning streak before facing New England, Miami, and Pittsburgh. The biggest key is figuring out an identity on offense in the next few weeks.