Unflappable Sanchez sparks Jets' revival in crucial win over Patriots
The Jets are now back at 1-1, with a crucial victory within the AFC East
Jets CB Darrelle Revis (bad hamstring) is questionable for Week 3 vs. Miami
Antonio Cromartie switched over to Randy Moss after Revis left early
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For a franchise whose fans see gloom, paranoia and signs of an impending football apocalypse around every corner, here was a very frightful vision: All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $46 million hamstrings being worked on by a Jets trainer as the first half came to a close.
Moments earlier, Revis had been beaten for a touchdown by Patriots receiver Randy Moss, who roped in a one-handed, over-the-shoulder, Hall-of-Fame highlight-reel reception to give New England a 14-7 lead with 53 seconds left in the half. Even if the crowd didn't verbalize it as one, you sensed the throng at the new Meadowlands Stadium was muttering an age-old refrain known well in these parts:
Same Old Jets.
Well, not on this day, at least. In his best day as a pro -- and his most dominant performance since throwing four touchdowns in the Rose Bowl against Penn State two years ago while at USC -- Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 21 of 30 passes for 220 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in leading New York to a come-from-behind 28-14 win. It was a monumental performance (including zero turnovers) after a week in which Sanchez, the Jets offense and the play-calling abilities of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were dissected like a cadaver inside a med school lab. (Last Wednesday the New York Post's front page blared: "WHAT NOW, BIG MOUTH?" below a picture of head coach Rex Ryan).
"You are going to get some criticism here, but we never stopped believing," said Ryan.
The Jets (1-1) now arrive in Miami (2-0) next Sunday with a new outlook on the season. "Man, 1-1 feels a lot better than 0-2," said tackle Damien Woody. "If you go 0-2, it really puts you in a bind. Now we're 1-0 in the division, and that's the biggest part of this game. When you win division games, it's like winning a game and a half."
"It's just tough when you lose that first game," added Sanchez. "You feel like you are 0-10."
Given how the game started, that's where the Jets appeared headed. The Patriots ran 24 plays in the opening quarter (to three for the Jets) and owned the ball for 13:58 of the first 15 minutes. But such statistical dominance resulted in zero points and it would cost New England dearly. After the Patriots took a 7-0 lead on a Wes Welker touchdown reception, Sanchez embarked on one of his best drives as a pro: He completed 7 for 7 passes, including three successful third-down completions. The 12-play, 77-yard drive was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown catch by Braylon Edwards.
In terms of the game within the game, much had been made about Moss facing Revis after Moss had been a non-factor in two head-to-head matchups with Revis last season (nine catches for 58 yards and one touchdown). Adding fuel to the rivalry, Revis had called Moss a "slouch" in an interview last year and Moss responded last week by telling ESPN that "if what he called me was a slouch, I guess the slouch will be there to see you on Sunday."
The slouch was no slouch in the second quarter. On a 1st and 10 from the Jets' 34 with a minute remaining until halftime, Moss made a quick move on Revis at the line of scrimmage to free himself into space. He then flashed his right hand aloft to alert Tom Brady that he had a step on the cornerback. Brady's pass was slightly overthrown but Moss pulled it in like an NFL version of Inspector Gadget. The 80-yard drive lasted four plays and, to make matters worse, Revis went straight to the bench and popped onto a table to have his hamstring stretched by Jets training staff. The official word came to the press box with 10:42 left in the third quarter: Revis was out with a hamstring injury.
"I was running around with Randy the whole time until he scored," said Revis, who said he felt good in warmups after tweaking his hamstring in practice earlier in the week. "When I tried to open up and run, he got behind me and that's when I started feeling it. He got on top of me and made a great catch."
Revis watched the rest of the game from the Jets locker room and will get an MRI on Monday. After Moss's touchdown, Sanchez led the Jets on a seven-play drive to get Nick Folk into field goal range. The kicker's 49-yard field goal made it 14-10 at halftime, and Folk's second field goal of the game (a 36-yarder) cut the lead to 14-13. The Jets then took a 21-14 lead on a 2-yard scoring pass from Sanchez to wideout Jerricho Cotchery and a successful two-point conversion from Sanchez to Edwards.
Tight end Dustin Keller (game-high seven receptions for 115 yards) salted the game away with a one-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter. "In a couple of more games we'll get Santonio Holmes back, so that will be one more threat," Keller said. "We're excited where we are at right now."
So where is Revis right now? The cornerback was asked at his locker about an hour after the game if he saw himself playing against the Dolphins. "I don't know yet," he said. "I'm a little sore, but there's not very much pain. It's not a severe injury but we have to go at it day by day."
That's a story -- and a big one -- for another day. On Sunday, the stadium belonged to Sanchez. After the clock ran out, the quarterback jogged off the field flanked by more than a dozen photographers. But before reaching the entrance to the hallway that leads to the locker room, he darted to his bench, hugged an equipment manager and grabbed a baseball cap bearing the Jets logo. Lips pursed, he clenched his fist to the sky as fans chanted his name. "This guy is more confident than I am, which is saying something," Ryan said after the game. "You have to have broad shoulders in this media market, and we have the right guy pulling the trigger for us."
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