It was déjà vu all over again. The Jets, who were looking at their next exciting win, then a depressing loss, then even their first tie since 1988, got that victory after all when Mark Sanchez hooked up with Santonio Holmes yet again in overtime.
This time the connection went for 37 yards. This time Holmes wasn't caught by a linebacker and didn't set up a field goal. The former Super Bowl MVP went all the way for the game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds left in OT as the Jets prevailed, 26-20.
"You talk about how resilient this football team is — that's two wins in a row on the road, in overtime," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan about something that was achieved for the first time in NFL history. "And that's about as tough as it gets, but we found ways to get it done right there at the end."
It was one of the most unexpected results of today's battle between the Ryan twins, Rex and Rob, and the New York Browns and the Cleveland Jets.
And it lifted the Green & White's record to 7-2, the best after nine games since the 1986 Jets went 8-1. That keeps them atop the AFC East and in fact tied for the best mark in the AFC with the Patriots, who topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh tonight. The Jets' franchise-record regular-season road winning streak was also extended to eight in a row.
Sanchez survived an injured calf and then three overtime series that ended in a punt, Nick Folk's third missed field goal of the game, from 47 yards out with 4:51 left in the OT, and the QB's only turnover of the game on an interception by rookie Joe Haden.
But the pick set up a Jets stand that forced the Browns to punt from their own end zone. Jim Leonhard's 18-yard return to the Browns 37 preceded the in-cut from Sanchez to Holmes that looked very similar to last week's 52-yard completion that set up Folk's game-winning field goal at Detroit.
"This was an easy game to lose," Sanchez said. "One mistake could've lost it for us. But we were resilient for another week."
"It's Cleveland, man," explained Holmes. "I cane back to the state of Ohio. I've been playing here in [Steelers] black and gold, and now I'm in green and white."
The Jets absorbed first-half jolts from Cleveland early, grabbed the lead on Sanchez's 1-yard keeper with 23 seconds left in the first half, powered over the Browns for most of the second half, then used Folk's 25-yard field goal with 2:42 left in regulation to survive a tying touchdown with 44 seconds left that sent things into the extra 15 minutes for the Jets for the second straight week.
Sanchez suffered his calf injury on a third-quarter sack but hung in all day, completing 27 of 44 passes for 299 yards, while the Green & White defense leaned on the Browns offense led by rookie QB Colt McCoy and battering-ram RB Peyton Hillis. The Jets had a 456-303 yardage edge overall, but an even more significant 293-107 after the first half.
The gritty second-year QB, seeming to favor his sore leg at times, almost threw a deflating interception to former Jets S Abram Elam inside the 5, but Elam couldn't hold it as Holmes made sure Elam couldn't find the handle. But the 56-yard drive ended in Folk's second field goal for the first points of the second half and a 20-13 Jets lead with 2:42 to play.
The Browns' last gasp of regulation was a big gulp as they moved to McCoy's 3-yard TD pass to Mohamed Massaquoi against Cromartie with 44 seconds left, knotting the score at 20-20.
Ryan on the Jets' injuries besides Sanchez's calf: LG Matt Slauson (knee), CB Dwight Lowery (head), WR Jerricho Cotchery (groin), S Eric Smith (wrist). ... Cotchery hurt the groin while running the route that produced a phenomenal diving grab for 10 yards on third-and-9 in the overtime. ... Folk was the first Jets kicker to miss three field goals in a game since then-rookie John Hall went 1-for-4 at New England in 1997.
Rookie Kyle Wilson got the start when the Jets opened in their nickel alignment against the Browns' 3-WR set. Wilson had several nice plays and also had an 18-yard punt return. ... The Jets had two takeaways, both on fumble recoveries, and one giveaway but had no interceptions for the fourth straight game and for the first time in franchise history have just one pick in six consecutive games.
Edwards returned to Cleveland, his team for his first five seasons, and had four catches for 59 yards, many of them bringing out the boo birds in the long-remembering, unforgiving Browns crowd. ... Shonn Greene muscled his way to 72 yards on 20 carries and was the Jets' leading rusher ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson (18-for-57) for the first time this year.