It took the first 45:42 of their game against the Washington Redskins at New Meadowlands Stadium, but the Jets' starting offense finally got a bit of a bounce, meaning a touchdown drive.
But was it enough to give the Green & White "ones" confidence and momentum heading through next week's trip to Philadelphia, where they aren't expected to play a lick as a group, and into the Sept. 13 season opener against Baltimore?
In the words of head coach Rex Ryan, "We'll see."
The Jets' 15-play, 82-yard touchdown drive to Mark Sanchez's 10-yard touchdown toss to TE Dustin Keller was the offensive centerpiece to their 16-11 loss to the 'Skins — during which they also lost LB Calvin Pace to a foot injury for a couple of weeks — that dipped their summer record to 1-2 with only Thursday night's preseason finale to come before the 2010 fireworks begin in earnest.
"We did some good things rushing the ball," Ryan said of the LaDainian Tomlinson/Shonn Greene-fired ground game rolled to 161 yards at 5.0 per carry. "That's a positive — that's who we are. But the big part of losing the game, and you've got to give the Redskins credit, is four turnovers. That was a stat that jumps out. We've got to do a better job in the red zone. We just have to start punching things in."
The Jets finally did that with the touchdown, out of an empty backfield on the second play of the fourth quarter and it capped the prettiest drive since, well, since their only other touchdown drive of the preseason in the opener at NMS against the Giants.
It featured Sanchez completing six of eight passes for 62 yards, including four to Keller for 41 yards. It gave the hosts an 11-9 lead (after Nick Folk's PAT attempt hit the left upright) more reminiscent of a baseball barnburner than a close-to-the-vest third NFL preseason game.
It ended a 15-series touchdown-less drought by the first offense.
"The only good thing about it," said Sanchez, who finished 13-for-21 for 139 yards, "is that the last two games might not have left a good taste in our mouths. All the good energy we've built up, you take that away for two weeks and I think we'll be hungry."
"It's a good thing that the ones kind of ended the preseason with a nice long drive," said tackle Damien Woody. "That was something positive that really came out of the whole deal."
The negatives were those turnovers. The first offense had two, the first on a Sanchez red zone interception by D'Angelo Hall — on another ball intended for Keller.
"It was a mistake, a costly mistake," Ryan said. "It took points off our board and got them out of a hole."
Then came a Santonio Holmes fumble after a 23-yard reception. The final two sealed the deal in the 'Skins' favor. Rookie Joe McKnight, who dazzled with a 27-yard punt return, fizzled with a lost fumble on a third-down run that started Washington on its way to a perfectly executed 15-yard screen TD from third QB Richard Bartel to Larry Johnson with 2:13 to play. Then "old man" Mark Brunell, under the blitz gun, lost a strip sack that enabled the visitors to run out the final two minutes.
The first defense, meanwhile, was, if not perfect, effective again in its work through three quarters. The Redskins ones had no touchdowns, three field goals and 171 yards. For the first three preseason games the first defense had 15 series, on which they allowed 19 points, including one 1-yard TD "drive," a tame 4.0 yards per opponents' offensive play, and five three-and-outs plus, tonight, their first safety in any game since 2003.
The Jets' standouts were spread around the unit: Pace had a D-leading five solo tackles and a forced fumble on the hosts' only sack of the first half, rookie Kyle Wilson looked solid again at CB in coverage and on the blitz (even splitting his first pro sack with Jim Leonhard). At DT, Kris Jenkins flashed on several runs and Sione Pouha batted two passes at the line.
But Pace left in the third quarter with a foot injury and did not return. After the game, Ryan said his top OLB "has something with his foot. I would expect him too be out a few weeks. ... That's a big loss, there's no doubt, but we're fortunate because we have a lot of depth at that position. Jason Taylor, his M.O. is going to change from 75 percent of the plays to 100 percent of the plays until Calvin gets back."
If you expected the 14th-year pro to flinch at this, expect something else.
"It's what I do, man. I've been doing this a long time," Taylor said. "I wouldn't walk around telling everybody I'm a 'situation guy.' If Calvin did get hurt, that's terrible, but it's my job to step up and help. Can I do it? Yeah, it's what I do."
What can the Jets do to get ready for the onrushing season? One thing they won't do, Ryan said, is to deviate from their Eagles plan.
"It hasn't changed one bit," the coach said. "We'll start working with the ones getting ready against Baltimore. Then the twos and our backups will get ready to play Philly."
The Jets' specialists had another mostly strong night. James Ihedigbo made solo tackles on the first two Washington kickoff returns and threw a crushing block on McKnight's big return. Brad Smith and Marquice Cole double-teamed Brandon Banks on a punt return to force the 'Skins' only giveaway. Steve Weatherford had two inside-the-10 punts.
Nick Folk extended his FG streak to 7-of-8 before coming up a few yards short from 62 yards to end the first half, then bounced a PAT off the left upright. Had Folk hit from 62, it would have been the longest FG in any game in franchise history. The longest kick remains John Hall's 59-yarder at Philadelphia in the 2001 preseason.
Tomlinson's second touch of the game was significant in a couple of respects. LT's burst off LT went for 43 yards, from the Jets 7 to midfield — the Jets' longest preseason run since, well, since Danny Woodhead went for 55 yards and a TD vs. the Eagles last Sept. 3. And it was Tomlinson's second touch of the game and 15th of the preseason, his most in any preseason of his 10-year NFL career.
Antonio Cromartie lost an early diving INT, off of Pouha's first deflection, because AC held WR Joey Galloway before the throw. ... The Jets' most recent safety occurred in the 2003 regular-season finale at Miami. Their last preseason safety occurred in 1998, when Dorian Boose (remember him?) was held in the end zone at Philadelphia.
Green & White captains tonight: Holmes, Folk, LB Jason Taylor, QB Mark Brunell and WR Laveranues Coles, who of course played for the Redskins in 2003-04. ... Three injured players didn't dress for the Jets: LB Josh Mauga, S Donovan Warren and G Charlie Tanner. ... Actual attendance tonight was 50,508.