With millions of New York Jets fans seemingly ready to call their local police precinct and request an All Points Bulletin to be put out for their team’s missing office, the Detroit Lions (2-6), on the verge of victory, gave Gang Green new life, and the Jets took full advantage on Sunday.
Held to just ten points over nearly all of their past two games, the Jets (6-2) rallied from a ten-point deficit, scoring the final three times they touched ball, to score ten points in the final 2:46 of regulation before shocking the Lions in overtime, to win, 23-20, at Ford Field on Sunday.
After getting shut out at home by Green Bay last week, New York punted four times before finally scoring on consecutive second-quarter possessions, to take a 10-7 halftime lead.
Trailing 7-0 after the Lions scored on the game’s opening possession (on a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to rookie first round pick, tight end Brandon Pettigrew), the Jets matched 75 yards on 9 plays for a 31-yard field goal by Nick Folk before striking quickly on their next possession, with quarterback Mark Sanchez (22-39, career-high 323 yards, 1 TD, I INT, 1 sack) throwing a deep 74-yard score to wide receiver and Detroit native Braylon Edwards, who didn’t do much else in the game (he finished with 3 catches for 78 yards, and the one touchdown).
But, New York’s offensive struggles continued thereafter.
The Jets’ first two possessions of the second half ended with the game’s only turnovers (an Edwards fumble that led to a Lions’ touchdown, and then a Sanchez red zone interception), and New York punted on its next three possessions.
Meanwhile, after Detroit turned Edwards’ fumble into a short, 8-play, 47-yard drive with Stafford (20-36, 240 yards, 2 passing TD’s, 1 rushing TD, 0 INT, 2 sacks) scoring on a one-yard TD run, the Lions extended their lead on the game’s longest drive, spanning the third and fourth quarters.
Stafford capped a 9-play, 90-yard drive which took 3:17, with a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nate Burleson, to put the Lions in control of the game, as Detroit took a 20-10 lead with 11:51 left in the game.
That was the last time the Lions offense could move the ball however, as the Jets’ defense then gave its offense a chance to rally by holding the Lions to three straight three-and-outs to end the game.
That allowed Sanchez to take the Jets 56 yards on 6 plays, in only 1:40, and score on a quarterback sneak, to trim the Lions’ lead to 20-17 with 2:46 left in the game.
On Detroit’s next possession, with Stafford knocked out (having re-injured his right shoulder with 5:19 left), Lions’ coach Jim Schwartz made the poor choice to have third-string quarterback Drew Stanton (second stringer Shaun Hill was inactive) throw on a third down play rather than taking more time off the clock before punting back to the Jets, who were out of time outs.
Stanton threw incomplete, leaving the fortunate Jets 1:40 on the clock. That was enough for Sanchez to take his team 60 yards on 9 plays, for a game-tying 36-yard field goal by Folk on the final play of regulation, after linebacker Julian Peterson’s ill-advised late hit out of bounds on running back LaDanian Tomlinson (15 carries game-high 55 yards) helped New York on the drive.
The game was as good as over when the Jets then won the coin toss to start overtime.
With Sanchez finding wide receiver Santonio Holmes (5 catches for a game-high 114 yards) on a 52-yard completion to the Lions’ 16-yard line on the second play of the extra session, Folk ended the game on a 30-yard field goal three plays later, just 2:18 into overtime.
After Stafford’s rushing touchdown gave the Lions a 13-10 lead, star defensive end Ndamukong Suh was forced to fill in for injured kicked Jason Hanson (who was hurt earlier in the game) on the extra point. Suh hit the right upright, missing what obviously proved to be a crucial point late in the game.
Once again, it wasn’t a pretty day for a team which has boasted since the preseason of not only believing, but feeling like, it rightfully belongs in Super Bowl XLV.
But, in a crazy NFL season in which almost nothing has been for certain, the Jets will gladly take the victory, especially with former AFC-East leading New England (6-2) being surprised by the Browns (3-5) in Cleveland, 34-14, to move the Jets back into first place, on a tiebreaker, ahead of the Patriots, whom the Jets beat earlier in the year.
The Jets will get their own shot at the Browns in Cleveland next Sunday, at 1pm EST while the Patriots have another tough road game, in Pittsburgh (5-2), on Sunday Night Football.