It started out looking like another Jets-Patriots game in the Meadowlands, which until last year was an all-New England affair.
It began looking better for Green & White fans as the offense awoke in the second quarter, but then started feeling painfully difficult as first CB Darrelle Revis left the game for good when his hamstring pull during the week flared up, then C Nick Mangold went off with a shoulder injury, questionable return.
But it ended up the way everyone from Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez on through the all the fans in the New Meadowlands Stadium stands and at home in Jet Nation thought it would, beginning six days ago on opening night.
The Ravens game is gone but the Jets' gritty, rousing 28-14 comeback triumph over Tom Brady's and Bill Belichick's Patriots will do just fine for now. The win evens the Jets' record at 1-1 with their second consecutive home win over their division rivals to set up next Sunday night's matchup with another archrival, the Dolphins, at Miami.
"This is how it was supposed to be after last week," head coach Rex Ryan said. "The thing I'm most proud of is that it took every last man in our locker room to get it done for us today. We talked about how it's not about one player or this player or that player — it's about the team. That was so evident today."
Revis said after the game that his hamstring felt good all pregame and during the game right up until the brilliant Brady-to-Randy Moss one-handed touchdown catch with 53 seconds left in the first half.
Revis said he felt the hamstring weaken "when I tried to open up and run. He kind of got in front of me and that's when I started feeling it."
He added that he had "no idea" how long he might be out. "We're just going to go about it day by day." He's scheduled to receive an MRI on Monday.
Too bad Revis couldn't finish his contribution to this milestone victory. The 14-point triumph is the Jets' largest over the Patriots since the 34-17 win at Foxboro in 2000 and the Jets' largest at home since finishing the '98 regular season with a 31-10 win.
"It didn't even feel like a rebound," said Sanchez, who finished his best passing game as a pro with 21-of-30 for 220 yards, three TDs, no INTs or fumbles and a 124.3 passer rating. "It just felt like we played smarter. We knew if we took away some of those penalties from the week before, we would've been happy after last week's game, too, with a win."
"I wouldn't say Mark had a sense of urgency," said TE Dustin Keller, who had a career-high 115 yards on seven receptions and put the Jets in the driver's seat with his 1-yard TD catch from Sanchez with 6:09 to play. "He was just 100 percent focused today. Everything was focused on the next play and nothing else."
For the defense, that meant an entire second half of plays with Drew Coleman for Revis at CB opposite Cromartie. But they made it work, holding Moss catchless in the second half and limiting Wes Welker to six catches for 38 yards and his first-half TD.
With that 28-14 lead, it was then up to that ailing D to bend but not break. It did both. Brady guided the Pats dynamically down to the Jets 16. But on first down, Jason Taylor blew in toward the QB's back undetected, sacked him and stripped the ball. Bryan Thomas picked it up and returned to the Jets 41 with 4:06 left.
Taylor, who left the game earlier, reinjured himself on the sack. But as he finally got up and jogged off, the fans broke out in a chant: "Jay-son Tay-lor!" Who'd'a thunk it?
The next amazing play came with the offense facing fourth-and-inches at midfield with 2:44 to play. Punt? Why not? Try to draw the defense offside? OK. But no, Ryan and OC Brian Schottenheimer called for a Sanchez handoff to LaDainian Tomlinson, who vaulted the right side of his O-line for the first down. Wow!
That enabled the Jets to run the final 4:06 off the clock, with the Patriots calling only one of their three timeouts as if to say, on Hispanic Heritage Day at the stadium, "No más."
With Sanchez slinging the ball with abandon, the offense moved to its first touchdown of the season with 6:22 left in the first half, a fade to Braylon Edwards. Then after accepting two more field goals from suddenly cant-miss Nick Folk, the Jets took their first lead of the game with 38 seconds left in the third quarter when Sanchez fired a slant strike to Jerricho Cotchery from 2 yards out.
Too early to go for a deuce? Didn't matter. Ryan did, and Sanchez hit Edwards, who again plucked the ball away from rookie CB Darius Butler.
Two Jets interceptions also helped the effort — by Antonio Cromartie on a Brady deep overthrow of Moss, then by Brodney Pool on a ball Moss tried to juggle into a magical catch similar to his second-quarter one-handed TD grab.
The first 16:43 of the game were not pretty for the Jets or their home crowd. Brady and the Patriots unfurled drives of 13 plays for 7:31 and then 15 plays for 8:10 sandwiched around a Jets three-and-out.
The first drive ended un-Pats-like as Stephen Gostkowski, pushed 5 yards back by a delay of game, missed from 37 yards.
The second found paydirt as Brady marched the Pats 75 yards to his 6-yard dart to Welker, who dived inside the right pylon just ahead of Antonio Cromartie's coverage. For Welker, who's had a remarkable rehab from last season's late knee injury, that's three TDs this year and his second career score vs. the Jets.
New England used up 13:58 of the first 15 minutes of clock time, which is the second-largest TOP by an opponent in the last 25 years, trailing only the Broncos' 14:05 in the second quarter of their 2005 game at Denver.
But the Jets' first offense finally came alive on its second drive today. Sanchez found Edwards for three third-down conversion passes on the drive, the final one come from 10 yards out on a fade over Butler in the end zone to tie the score at 7-7.
Soon the stage was set for the latest magic from Brady and Moss, with the throw just a little too far so that No. 81 stuck out his right hand and snagged it for a 34-yard time-capsule TD grab and the visitors retook the lead at 14-7.
"Randy's been making incredible catches like that his entire career," said Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery. "He makes the catch, then holds it there [one-handed] like 'I do this all the time.' "
But the Jets' rejuvenated offense mounted one more minidrive in the last 53 seconds of the half and crept back to within four points as Nick Folk nailed a 49-yard field goal as time expired.
"It's a long season," Sanchez said. "It's just tough when you lose that first game. It feels like you're 0-10. It was nice that it was a short week and we got to play as soon as possible. This game couldn't come soon enough.
"And," the quarterback added, "this is just the beginning."
Tomlinson had another strong game, rushing 11 times for 76 yards and catching four passes for 26 yards, giving him 102 yards of offense. ... Taylor's sack, the Jets' only one of Brady in the game, was the 128th career sack for the NFL's active leader. ... DT Sione Pouha and LB David Harris led the defense with six tackles each.
The Jets outgained the Patriots, 336 yards to 291, snapping a New England streak of 13 straight games of outgaining the Jets. ... Demonstrating how the Jets gained strength in this game: Into the second quarter, the Patriots controlled the ball for 15:36 to the Jets' 1:02 and outgained the Jets, 123-5. Over the rest of the game the Jets had a 31:30-11:52 time advantage and a 331-168 yardage edge.
KOR Brad Smith also left for periods of time today. Rookie Kyle Wilson got his first pro kickoff return to start the second half in place of Smith. ... After last week's 14 penalties for 125 yards, the Jets settled back to manageable penalty levels of six flags for 58 yards to the Pats' 6-for-79.