Something about the Redskins has not brought out the best in the Jets over the years. The Green & White had lost nine of 10 all-time to Washington's finest over the years, with their only win coming by 3-0 in a windy RFK Stadium in 1993.
Today's renewal of the rivalry wasn't much prettier for most of the way. But then the Jets found an opening and drove their playoff truck through it. Touchdowns by Santonio Holmes and Shonn Greene and then Greene again in the game's final 4:49 propelled the Jets to a stunning 34-19 pullaway triumph over the Redskins.
"It tells us we have to get better," said head coach Rex Ryan. "But it also tells us about the character and guts of this football team."
With the win, the Jets improved to 7-5 with their second win in a row — and their second successful one-season game in their hoped-for 6-for-6 push into the AFC playoff grid. And Sanchez led his ninth career fourth-quarter comeback victory.
The Holmes touchdown came on a beautiful 30-yard floater from Mark Sanchez that Tone gathered in on the 5 past the 'Skins defenders and eased into the end zone. That gave the visitors their first lead of the game at 20-16 with 4:49 to play.
"It was a double move," said Sanchez. "We had called some shorter routes, and thought it was a good opportunity to get a double move on them. I had plenty of time to throw it."
Thus a reverse Broncos finish was set up. If only the Jets defense could hold up this time, forcing Washington to have to drive the field for a go-ahead TD ...
It didn't get to that as Aaron Maybin, rushing from the inside, got his first sack of the game and team-leading sixth of the season, separating QB Rex Grossman from the ball. Calvin Pace pounced on the fumble at the Washington and two plays later Greene squeezed through a gash on the Jets' right side and scoring from the 9 standing up to up the ante to 27-16 — the Jets' largest second-half lead in their 10 all-time games against the 'Skins.
The defense gave up a Washington drive to the Jets 25 before stiffening and forcing Graham Gano to hit his fourth field goal of the game from 46 yards out. At the two-minute warning, all the Jets needed to do was recover Gano's onsides kick and run out the clock for this late-developing win.
Done and done. Antonio Cromartie leaped to snag the high hopper, then on the next play Greene burst free for a 25-yard TD, making it 34-19 with 1:47 to play. As demoralized Redskins fans filed out of FedEx Field, Fireman Ed got a healthy "J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!" chant going from the good amount of green-and-white-clad fans who made the trip down to the vicinity of the nation's capital.
It was Greene's third rushing TD of the game, making him the first Jet to run for a trifecta since Thomas Jones vs. St. Louis in 2008 and the first Jet to do that on the road since Curtis Martin on Oct. 15, 2000 at New England.
Setting the Second-Half Stage
The Jets moved the ball just a little but it was enough to enable them to retie the score at 13-all with 6:36 left in the third quarter. Shortly after Jim Leonhard's 14-yard punt return to the Washington 47 and John Conner's brawny third-and-1 plunge for the first down, Nick Folk was called on for his second field goal try of the game — from 51 yards out. And it was good off the FedEx Field grass, giving Folk his third 50 field goal of the season and his fifth in two seasons as a Jet.
The Green & White was back in business after Marcus Dixon forced a Roy Helu fumble that Eric Smith picked up. The original call was down by contact but ref John Parry reversed the call on Rex Ryan's second successful replay challenge of the game and his fifth of the season. However, the visitors couldn't move, Folk faded a 40-yard try wide right and the score remained tied.
And it remained at 13-all heading into the fourth quarter. The Redskins, who had gained 105 yards in the first quarter, then 89 combined in the next two frames, got 13 on Grossman's first completion of the second half to WR David Anderson, and the Jets lost MLB David Harris, who was shaken up and left the field slowly, but only for a play. He was back for the second-down tackle of Roy Helu and the third-down pressure on Grossman forcing another punt.
But the Jets couldn't move and then a series of events — Tanner Purdum's high punt snap to T.J. Conley, Conley's low 36-yarder, Brandon Banks' 16-yard return, and a 5-yard ineligible-downfield call on Tracy Wilson — set the Redskins up at the Jets' 31 with 9:26 to play. Three plays later, the defense held again but Gano came on for his third field goal try of the game from 46 yards out. It was good, giving the 'Skins a 16-13 lead.
A First 30 Minutes of Long Drives
The Redskins, still feeling the magic from last week's win at Seattle, marched down the field on the game's opening drive. They drove 82 yards on eight plays to Roy Helu's 2-yard power run off left tackle. Helu, the recently anointed starting tailback, touched the ball six times and gained 40 yards.
But the Jets had a ready response, driving 74 yards on 17 plays and 9:06 of clock time to Shonn Greene's 1-yard TD plunge off the left side to make it 7-7 with 1:15 to go in the opening frame
The drive was significant in several respects. It was the Jets' first opening-drive TD in 10 games and their second in 27 games, their third first-quarter TD in 27 games and was also their sixth consecutive red zone touchdown drive.
The long march also could have been costly after LaDainian Tomlinson went down awkwardly at the end of a 16-yard screen pass and tackle by S Oshiomgho Atogwe on the Redskins sideline with a knee injury. LT got up after a minute and walked under his own power to the Jets' sideline but a few moments later it was announced that his return to the game was questionable.
Keeping up the early-game long-drive theme, the 'Skins moved from their 34 after a lateral on the next kickoff to the Jets 15 before the defense stiffened. Graham Gano came on for a 33-yard field goal and the hosts retook the lead at 10-7 with 11:32 left in the half.
The teams exchanged shorter punts and then the Jets took over on their 16 with 8:12 left in the half and again advanced the ball well, with a one-handed Holmes grab and an 18-yard slant to Burress helping get the ball to the Washington 35.
They couldn't get another first down, but with Tomlinson back in the backfield on third down, Sanchez completed a 7-yard pass to Jeremy Kerley, getting Nick Folk close enough for a 45-yard field goal, which he tucked inside the left upright to retie the game at 10-10 with 3:06 left in the half.
The defense held the hosts inside their 40 and it looked as if the visitors could mount a two-minute drive after the punt. No such luck as Sav Rocca's high punt was muffed by rookie Jeremy Kerley, with Perry Riley recovering for the 'Skins at the Jets 18.
It was the Jets' fourth lost kickoff/punt fumble in the last four games and their sixth of the season, their most in a season in the last three decades.
But the Jets defense came up with a big red zone stand as Grossman struggled to find receivers, forcing the Redskins to settle for a 23-yard Gano field goal with 19 seconds left, making it 13-10. Gano's knuckled squib kickoff ensured Sanchez would kneel down and run the final 12 seconds of the half off, at least setting the Green & White up to get the ball to start the third quarter.
The Jets' 21 fourth-quarter points were their most in the final frame since scoring 22 points vs. Arizona in 2008, the most in the fourth quarter on the road since scoring 21 at the Giants in 1999, and the most in the fourth quarter of a road win since scoring 21 at Miami in 1989. In short, it equals the most fourth-quarter points in a road win in franchise history.
Sanchez finished 19-for-32 for 165 yards, one TD and no INTs. ... Greene ran for 88 yards on 22 carries. ... Holmes wound up with four catches for 58 yards. ... Helu had 100 yards on the nose in 23 carries for the 'Skins.
The Jets defense allowed Grossman to hit three of his first five passes for 71 yards in the first quarter, then held him to 16-for-41 passing for 150 yards over the final three quarters. ... With three second-half takeaways (including Kyle Wilson's last-minute interception, his second career pick), the Jets gave the Redskins their 11th consecutive game with at least two giveaways.