While the Jets may have left one on the table last week, they stole one Sunday in Detroit.
Marred by a litany of penalties, questionable calls and turnovers, Gang Green overcame their troubles to put up ten points in the final four minutes to push it into overtime. After the Jets won the coin flip, Mark Sanchez capped off the comeback with a 52-yard catch-and-run by Santonio Holmes. That set up a Nick Folk game-winning field goal, sending the Jets back to Jersey with a win.
It's easy to feel good about an overtime win on the road. But the reality is that for 3 1/2 quarters, the Jets again looked undisciplined and had trouble finding the end zone.
Make no mistake: These aren't your older brother's Lions. Crammed with talent on both sides of the ball through years of draft picks, Detroit is beginning to look like a team turning the corner into a playoff team as opposed to one conditioned to dwell in the NFL cellar. Players like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Jahvid Best have turned the often lowly Lions into a dangerous offense, one that can not only move the ball methodically, but also has one-shot, game-breaker ability. That threat allowed Nate Burleson to take advantage of single-coverage all day to torch the Jets' secondary for seven catches, 113 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, though, with the exception of a few miscues that led to points -- including an excruciating series where the Jets were forced to burn two timeouts while trying to get their twelfth man off the field -- the defense played very well. Darrelle Revis returned to form, smothering mega-superstar Calvin Johnson for 13 yards on a single catch, as well as making two monumental stops in the final quarter that afforded the Jets the opportunity to come back.
The billed matchup of the top quarterbacks taken in the 2009 NFL draft in Stafford and Sanchez fell apart after Stafford left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, his third such injury in the past two seasons. Does a healthy Stafford complete the extremely questionable pass attempted by third-string quarterback Drew Stanton on third down? That gift gave the Jets the ball back with 1:40 on the clock -- send thank you cards to Jim Schwartz for the extra 40 seconds.
But the most important play of the day came from another first-round pick. After a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Lions a fresh set of downs inside the Jets' 10-yard line, Stafford ran it in for a touchdown on a brilliantly executed play-action keeper that even fooled the CBS cameras. It was then that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, came on to kick the extra point for injured kicker Jason Hanson and promptly clanked it off the upright. That extra point -- or lack thereof -- allowed the Jets to be in a position to tie it in the end.
All that aside, the Jets' offense responded and produced in their last-chance situations. Though wildly inaccurate and out of sync with his receivers during large spells of the day, Sanchez bounced back on the final three drives to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Jets' rushing attack, still underutilized in the game, contributed on the final drives as well, with LaDainian Tomlinson catching balls out of the backfield and Shonn Greene ripping off chunks of important yardage. Greene again lobbied for more consistent touches, rushing for seven or more yards on several carries.
After that shutout loss to the Packers, the balance of run to pass in the final minutes of the game was not only refreshing but also helped show the identity of the team that ownership and management have been telling us about. The Jets appeared to be an undisciplined, unbalanced team all of last week and for much of the game this week, but Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had the team motivated and fired up to execute when they needed to the most. The defense got off the field quickly and the offense ran the hurry-up extremely well with excellent, balanced play-calling. And the bottom line is that they won.
With all three other AFC East teams losing Sunday, the win put the Jets back into a tie for first place in the division and allows Jets fans to put the doom-and-gloom on hiatus in favor of complacency and to believe again for another week.