When Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez walked onto the field with 13:17 left in the second quarter, things didn't look very pretty or promising. The Jets had run only three plays on offense to that point and were staring at a 7-0 hole to the Patriots.
On the ensuing drive, however, Sanchez & Co. delivered in a big way and showed that the offense's struggles may be behind them.
"It was just coming out this week and being myself and having fun," Sanchez said. "I told guys after the first game to smile and have a little fun, get animated. We're playing a kids' game. We're grown men but we're playing a kids game and to treat it like that. Be smart, but have fun."
On the drive that tied the game at 7-7, Sanchez found wide receiver Braylon Edwards three times, including on a 10-yard fade pattern in the end zone for a touchdown. Edwards played throughout the game with an unmistakable amount of passion, emotion and fire. He ended up with five receptions for 45 yards along with a two-point conversion.
"I'm just happy to get things going," Edwards said. "This is a team that is deserving of being a winning organization. This is a team that is deserving of being amongst those mentioned as a contender, not a pretender. A lot of that ticked us off. Let's be honest about it, it ticked us off. So we came out here today and showed what we really are."
There were many reasons for coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to smile after Sunday's final whistle, including career highs for Sanchez and tight end Dustin Keller. Sanchez finished 21-of-30 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Keller eclipsed his highest single-game yardage total with 115 yards on seven catches and a touchdown. The yardage included a thrilling 39-yard catch on a crucial third-and-1.
"It's huge," Keller said. "When me and Mark are clicking, it just seems like everybody is clicking, when I open up everything in the middle of the field and they have to close up and Braylon and Jerricho are open up on the outside. In a couple of more games we get [Santonio] Holmes back. That will just be one more threat, so we're excited where we're at right now."
In many other ways, the Jets offense looked nothing like the team that only put up nine points against the Baltimore Ravens on opening night. With a short week, it was amazing to see just how quickly the offense had come together. Even in practice on Friday, Sanchez and his receivers looked very sharp, and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who had four catches for 26 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, talked about how the offense came together so quickly.
"We've worked through a lot of things trying to become the offense that we want to be," Cotchery said. "We showed early on in training camp we were moving pretty well, then all the sudden we went into this little funk. So we just had to work our way out of that and we've been working hard at it. Communication had to go to another level in order for us to do that, and it has."
The final piece to the offensive puzzle was the running attack, which racked up 136 yards on 32 carries, including a number of impressive runs from LaDainian Tomlinson. LT had 11 carries for 76 yards, including a 31-yard run and a vital 1-yard leap over the Patriots defensive line on a fourth-and-1 that sealed the game. With his steady leadership and ballcarrying, Tomlinson was a calming presence that allowed the Jets offense to succeed.
"We just settled down, got a few first downs and some positive things started to happen," Tomlinson said. "I think the key thing for us was not getting penalties, false starts, holding and that type of stuff to kill our drives. It was a big win because for one it's a division game, and we talk about championships around here and obviously championships first start at the division."
Besides Tomlinson, running back Shonn Greene bounced back with a solid day, getting some of the tough yards to grind down the clock. In the end, it took every man on the Jets roster to seal the win against their divisional foes.