The Jets had many players and coaches returning to Sun Life Stadium, a place they used to call their place of employment this afternoon.
For them and their teammates, also frequent visitors to the venue, it was a long and often frustrating day at the office. But in the end, the Jets found a way to close the deal in overtime and accomplished their mission for the hot afternoon in South Florida.
"Obviously every win in this league is a great win and they're tough to get," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said after Nick Folk ended the marathon with a 33-yard boot in the fifth quarter. "I don't know if I've been in a tougher one than this. Clearly it was a great team effort. Did we get breaks? We certainly got some breaks. No question about it. The Dolphins they played extremely hard and obviously it looked rough there for us for a while. But we kept hanging in there and like the team we are, we kept fighting all the way till the end."
On the down side, the Jets lost CB Darrelle Revis, back after missing one game to a mild concussion, when he injured his knee on a collision with center Mike Pouncey late in the third quarter, and rookie WR Stephen Hill to hamstring problems in the fourth. Revis didn't return, and there was no immediate word on how serious the injury is. Hill's problems may have been a recurrence of his Game 2 hamstring injury.
"I'm always concerned with guys being injured," Ryan said. "And clearly with Darrelle, I mean that's your best player. So of course you're going to be concerned. But again, I don't know anything right now about it. We'll find out with the MRI tomorrow."
On the Jets' second series of OT, Mark Sanchez's 38-yard completion to Santonio Holmes set up the game-winner. Folk came through — but only after the Dolphins lost a blocked field goal because they called a kicker-icing timeout a split-second before — 8:56 into the extra frame as the Jets finally nailed down a 23-20 victory.
"It's fun anytime you can help win a game, especially the way we did," said Folk, who has made four game-winning field goals since joining the Jets in 2010. "It was a fight from the first whistle till the very end. I'm just proud of every guy in this room. They fought their tails off."
Sanchez and his offense finally generated their first touchdown of the game with 3:01 to play on a 7-yard TD strike to Jeremy Kerley against a big blitz past S Jimmy Wilson, giving the Green & White a lead at 20-17. Dolphins K Dan Carpenter not only missed a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter but a 48-yarder in OT as wide left was good to the Jets.
The defense produced the visitors' first touchdown by LaRon Landry at the start of the third quarter as Sanchez (21-45-306-1TD-2INT) battled through an inconsistent afternoon.
"This thing was a roller coaster, no doubt," said Sanchez. "I'm really proud of the offensive line, the receivers, running backs, guys blocking and catching the ball when we needed to there at the end and for picking me up when I didn't have it today. There were certain spans during the game where I left too many completions out there. I missed some throws that I can easily make and this team fought and we battled."
The win lifted the Jets to 2-1 and dropped the 'Fins to 1-2. It achieved Ryan and the Jets' stated goal of rising to 2-0 in the AFC East with the victory. Ryan and Sanchez each improved to 3-4 against Miami and the Jets won for the fifth time in their last seven trips to South Florida.
The brow-mopping come-from-behind win — the ninth of Sanchez's four-year career — was the best way to go into their three-game homestand against two tough visitors, the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday followed by the Houston Texans the following Monday.
"I think it wouldve been tough to come back and regroup for those two opponents coming up with a devastating loss," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "Everybody did pitch in with something today, which is just what we knew it was going to take."
Sanchez, playing without TE Dustin Keller for the second straight game, went through some dryspells but then rallied for moments of brilliant passing. He avoided the Jets' first no-touchdown offense since game 4 at Baltimore last season. Holmes finished with nine catches for 147 yards, his first 100-yard game since Nov. 21, 2010 against the Texans.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves, for myself and for the team," Holmes said. "We played physical from the jump. That was something Coach Sparano knew about those guys, that you have to take it to them from the start."
On the second play of the second half, with Miami backed up at its 6, rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, looking for TE Anthony Fasano, instead threw his first pick of the game, and Landry made him pay bigtime with an 18-yard interception-return touchdown — the first TD of Landry's six-year pro career and the second of the season for the Jets.
"I knew I could break in front of him," Landry said of the pick-six that tied the contest at 10. "My whole mindset was to come up and get that ball."
On the Dolphins' next play from scrimmage, Daniel Thomas, in at tailback with Reggie Bush sidelined from a helmet to his knee late in the first half, was stripped of the ball by NT Kenrick Ellis. Revis, pounced on the ball and the Jets were back in business at the Dolphins 26.
Next came Sanchez's turn to strike. After suffering through an 8-for-19 passing first half, he hit Holmes off play action for 13 yards, then again off play action for 10 yards to the 3. But the opportunity was wasted when Sanchez, trying to hit Hill with a fade, instead threw an interception into double coverage, with S Chris Clemons coming down with the ball in the end zone.
"That was kind of a schematic error and a good play by their defender," said Sanchez. "With all out pressure like that, there's no way to hang onto the ball and try to read that thing out so it's my job to put it up in the corner and we'll get that corrected."
Nevertheless, the Jets continued to force the Dolphins into bad field position. After a 61-yard punt by Robert Malone, the hosts started at their 20, giving them an average start of their own 14.3-yard line over their last seven drives.
But Miami went 80 yards on this occasion, with rookie FB Jorvorskie Lane scoring his first NFL touchdown from a half-yard out as the Aqua & Coral went back on top, 17-10, with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
Back came the Jets as the offense as Sanchez hit Kerley on a 1-on-1 success over the middle that Kerley took 66 yards to the Miami 5. But the Jets couldn't punch it in and had to settle for a Folk 20-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 17-13 with 13:29 remaining.
"We'll certainly take the win," Ryan said. "We're not going to give it back. We knew how hard it was, obviously. The Dolphins deserve a ton of credit. It was a heck of a football game."
A Heat Cramp of a First Half
The game opened raggedly for the Jets. On the fourth scrimmage play, Sanchez tried to find WR Clyde Gates, one of the Jets' gameday captains for his service with the Dolphins last season, but CB Richard Marshall muscled across the route for the interception.
The Dolphins moved eight plays, six of them runs, four of them runs by Bush, to Daniel Thomas' 1-yard TD run. It was the first opening-drive TD for a Jets opponent since Washington last year.
The offense scrapped for a first down but were stopped when Hill couldn't come up with a hurried Sanchez deep ball. Malone's first punt of the day was a 54-yard gross, 53-yard net. The Dolphins punted back and the Jets began again from their 18.
Sanchez niftily unloaded while under duress to Bilal Powell for a 10-yard gain to get this Green & White drive moving. Another 10-yarder, to former Sanchez high school teammate Konrad Reuland, got the visitors across midfield for the first time. But the series died on a Sanchez third-down sack by DE Jared Odrick and the Jets were forced to punt again.
This drive, like the opening foray moved for chunks of yards against the defense. Tannehill completed three passes after a Bart Scott illegal contact on Bush as the hosts moved inside the Jets 5 before the Green & White stiffened and forced the 'Fins to settle for a 21-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 8:26 left in the first half.
The Jets still looked overheated on offense as their next drive appeared to stall at their 25. But Tim Tebow got his first fake punt run as Malone's personal protector when Tanner Purdum's snap went to Tebow and he muscled his way 5 yards on fourth-and-3 to get the first down.
"They had a lot of guys up there, but we believed we could get it," Tebow said. "We hadn't run one all preseason or in the regular season, so we felt like we could dig in there and get it."
Sanchez, who had started 4-for-13 passing, then started finding connections, to Holmes and then TE Jeff Cumberland on third downs, as the visitors finally moved inside the Dolphins 20.
However, on third-and-4 at the 15, Sanchez had Hill for a touchdown but the rookie dropped the pass, so the Jets had to settle for Folk's 33-yard field goal with 1:50 left in the half.
The visitors almost got a bonus two-minute drill when the defense pinned the Dolphins at their 5. But Eric Smith on the punt rush didn't get a piece of Brandon Fields' punt from his end zone but Smitty did catch a piece of Fields, getting flagged for roughing the kicker. And so the teams went in at the half with the Dolphins ahead, 10-3, their first halftime lead in their last nine games against their AFC East friends from up I-95.
This was the Jets' first overtime game since 2010, when they won at Detroit and at Cleveland in OT in back-to-back games. ... Kerley's 66-yard reception was the longest by a Jets WR since Braylon Edwards (74 yards at Detroit, 2010) and longest non-scoring reception by a WR since Neil O'Donnell-to-Wayne Chrebet for 70 yards vs. Miami in 1997.
The Jets led at halftime in first downs (10-9) and possession time (16:03-13:57) but Dolphins were ahead in yards (156-114) and takeaways (1-0). ... Bush, who took a Jets helmet to his knee in the final minute of the half, had 61 yards on 10 carries at the break. ... Dan Carpenter missed a 48-yard field goal early in the fourth period, his first miss vs. the Jets after hitting his first 13 tries dating to 2008.