Can anyone answer why the Jets keep pulling games out of the fire the way they have been all season? Can anyone say if they can continue doing it all the way to Dallas?
"Who's to know? Who's to say?" quarterback Mark Sanchez said after he and his two superstar wideouts, Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, did the nearly impossible in snatching their 30-27 victory with 10 seconds left away from the Texans at increasingly loud and proud New Meadowlands Stadium this afternoon. "We'll take the win however we can get them, but we would like to get them a little easier than this."
But as head coach Rex Ryan said, after praising his players and the Green & White fans for responding to his midweek "challenge":
"I want to apologize to all the Jets fans for affecting the heart a little bit. ... But we're 8-2 and we'll get it fixed. I'll take it. ... If I have to apologize every week from here on out, I will, right on to the Super Bowl.
The Jets' offense, with 55 seconds and no timeouts left, began what appeared to be a fool's errand, a 72-yard drive to a game-winning touchdown that would rescue a game that should have been salted away early in the fourth quarter, when they opened a 23-7 lead on the struggling Texans.
"Same new Jets," said defensive end Shaun Ellis.
The first 24 yards came on two completions to LaDainian Tomlinson. Then, perhaps in honor of the 11th annual Military Appreciation Day, Sanchez turned marksman by firing a pass through a small window to Edwards streaking down the right sideline for 42 yards to the Texans 6.
Sixteen seconds remained when Sanchez threw his last pass of the game, a fade left to Holmes, who got his second foot down just inbounds and survived a booth review to provide the points that lifted the Jets to 8-2.
That's 8-2 as in the second-best 10th-game record in franchise history, trailing only the 1986 team's 9-1 start. More important, it lifted the Jets, even if temporarily, back into sole possession of first place in the AFC East over the Patriots, who then also rose to 8-2 after holding off the Colts, 31-28, at home late this afternoon.
As jubilant and relieved as the Jets and their fans were over their third come-from-behind victory in the last five games and sixth late-game heroics, no one was kidding himself, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Texans, admittedly explosive offensively and desperate collectively, had seven points and 162 yards after three quarters. Then they erupted for 20 unanswered points and 181 yards in the fourth quarter.
"We've done it over and over again this year," said safety Jim Leonhard of last year's No. 1 defense in so many categories struggling to close the deal this time around. "You're mad but you go over to the sideline and you say, 'How are we going to get out of this one?' You're glad you got the win because you know you've got a lot of things to clean up."
The cleanup will begin on the video shortly after Sanchez struck first with Edwards for a 27-yard strike to set up a 4-yard TD late in the second quarter, and then with Holmes for a 41-yard TD as he sped away from three Houston defenders late in the third quarter.
That gave the Jets a 23-7 lead, their largest advantage since Buffalo in Game 4 and their largest at home since the 37-0 rout of Cincinnati in Game 16 last year.
The defense couldn't hold onto that lead, with help from the offense. Shonn Greene's second lost fumble of the season at midfield set up Matt Schaub's 43-yard strike to wide-open former Jets TE Joel Dreessen — "blown coverage, period," Leonhard explained.
Then after NFL-leading rusher and TD-maker Arian Thomas reached the ball over from a yard out for his second TD of the game, Sanchez threw his only interception of the game when hit in the pocket, setting up Rackers' last field goal.
But all is forgiven for another week — make that five days. That's how soon the Jets will play again, when they host the skidding Bengals, 49-31 home losers to the Bills today, on Thanksgiving night at NSM.
"We keep finding ways to wn," said Ellis. "We're just taking it one game at a time. Now we've got a short week. We've got to come back and play good against Cincinnati. They're going to come back ready to play. You can never count those guys out."
True, in the NFL you can't count out even the Bengals, who are on a seven-game losing streak and licking their wounds. But if that's true, you surely can never count out these Jets. They're not good for the heart, but so far they've been good for the W almost every week.
Sanchez finished 22-for-38 for 315 yards, his second career 300-yard passing game, both in the past three weeks. ... Holmes finished with seven catches for 126 yards, Edwards with 4-for-86, LaDainian Tomlinson with 7-for-71. ... Patrick Turner made his first career reception for 21 yards on second-and-23 on the Edwards TD drive. ... Rookie Joe McKnight made his first pro tackle in kickoff coverage.
The Jets finished with 401 yards of offense, the third consecutive game that they reached 400. That's only the third time in franchise history they've had such a three-game streak, equaling stretches in 1985 and 1996. ... The Green & White were 7-for-15 on third downs. ... The Jets won despite their minus-1 turnover margin. Their only takeaway came on Mike DeVito's forced fumble against Foster, recovered by Jim Leonhard.
Dreessen had four catches for 106 for the Texans. ... DE Mario Williams, who flipped from Houston's right side vs. D'Brickashaw Ferguson to its left when Wayne Hunter came in for RT Damien Woody (knee) in the second quarter, had two sacks. ... Ryan on D-Wood's injury: "I'm not sure right now. I have no idea." ... Houston played without LB Zac Diles (illness) and TE Owen Daniels (hamstring) while the Jets were without WR Jerricho Cotchery (groin) and CBs Dwight Lowery (concussion) and Marquice Cole (hamstring).