With the NFC-South leading New Orleans Saints (6-2) visiting the Meadowlands, a couple of trends figured to end for Rex Ryan and his New York Jets (5-4) on Sunday.
Ryan had been undefeated while coaching against his brother, Rob Ryan, the Saints’ defensive coordinator, and each time the Jets had won or lost this season, they did the opposite the following week.
Each of those tendencies won out because New York did as well, 26-20, at MetLife Stadium.
Avoiding a turnover themselves, the Jets turned a pair of interceptions by quarterback Drew Brees (30-51, 382 yards, two touchdowns) into 10 points that ultimately made the difference in New York rebounding from its worst loss of the season (49-9 in Cincinnati last week), while continuing a win one, lose one pattern that the Jets have been holding in since the start of the season.
The elder Ryan, meanwhile, won for the fifth time in as many meetings with his younger brother, who lost his four earlier contests to the Jets’ head coach as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys.
Nearly half of New York’s points came from the right foot of kicker Nick Folk, who while making all four of his field goal attempts, including kicks from 47 and 45 yards in the second half, hasn’t missed in 23 tries this season.
New Orleans kicker Garret Hartley (2-for-3) wasn’t quite as perfect, as he missed wide left, from 43 yards, to end the Saints’ opening drive.
After a 39-yard kick from Folk gave the Jets a 3-0 edge on their second possession, following a Brees pick, things started to go as expected when Brees connected to tight end Jimmy Graham (nine catches, 116 yards, two touchdowns) on a 51-yard touchdown pass that give New Orleans its first lead, 7-3, late in the first quarter.
Two New York possessions later, running back Chris Ivory (18 carries, 139 yards, one touchdown) ripped off a 52-yard run from the Jets’ 2-yard line before a direct snap to wide receiver Josh Cribbs (two catches, six yards) and a 25-yard completion from Cribbs to tight end Zach Sudfeld (two catches, 46 yards), two plays later, moved New York to the Saints’ 15-yard line.
That trip stalled at the New Orleans 3-yard line, but a chip shot field goal by Folk drew the Jets to within 7-6 late in the second period.
Brees only needed five plays to answer that score with his second touchdown pass, the first of which was a 60-yard completion to wide receiver Bobby Meachem (four catches, 93 yards), from the Saints’ 20-yard line to New York’s.
Four plays later, Brees went back to Graham for a 10-yard score that gave New Orleans its biggest lead, 14-6, just 2:13 after Folk’s second field goal.
Providing a quick answer of their own, the Jets scored on their last two drives and took the lead for good with a couple of touchdowns over the last 2:39 of the half.
New York first went 61 yards on eight plays, with the help of completions of 11 and 19 yards by quarterback Geno Smith (8-for-19, 115 yards), to set up a 3-yardstouchdown run by Ivory that cut the Saints’ lead to 14-13.
Just two plays later, Brees threw short to wide receiver Nick Toon (no catches on four targets), the son of former great Jets receiver Al Toon, but cornerback Antonio Cromartie intercepted the pass to set New York up at the New Orleans 39-yard line.
Smith then completed passes of 13 and 21 yards to set up his own three-yard touchdown run that regain the lead for the Jets, 20-14, just 37 seconds before halftime.
Each team managed only a field goal in each of the final two quarters, as New York’s defense held on down the stretch.
Taking the opening kickoff of the second half, the Jets moved from their own 21-yard line into field goal range on the strength of a 44-yard reception by wide receiver Greg Salas (two catches, 57 yards). New York got as far as the Saints’ 29-yard line before Folk’s longest field goal of the day increased the Jets’ lead to 23-14.
Later in the quarter, another potential Cromartie interception was then erased by a defensive holding penalty, but two sacks and a fumble on the second one set up a 3rd-and-38 for New Orleans at midfield.
A 13-yard completion from Brees to Graham set Hartley up for a 55-yard field goal that brought the Saints to within 23-17 in the waning moments of the period, but a 30-yard run by Ivory helped to put New York in position for a Folk field goal that extended the Jets’ advantage to 26-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Again moving into New York territory, the Saints were stopped with a single yard to go on third and fourth downs.
Starting with 6:12 to go, Brees engineered an 11-play, 60-yard trip that ended with a Hartley field goal that cut the Jets’ lead to 26-20, with 3:06 left.
Using up only 1:08, New York went three-and-out but the Jets then dialed up the pressure on Brees, forcing the Saints into a 4th-and-19
Four straight incompletions by Brees, with an offensive holding penalty mixed in, sealed New Orleans’ fate, and allowed New York to enter its bye week with an unexpected winning record after nine weeks.
Having avoided its first losing skid of the season, the Jets will try for their first winning streak of the year on November 17, in Buffalo (3-6), in a rematch of a 27-20 Week 3, home win by New York.