Sanchez vs the Texans, Nov 21, 2010
You can call them a team that struggles to close out games. Call them a team that has taken advantage of some calls. But don't call them "lucky."
The New York Jets are a darn good football team that knows how to make the plays it needs to win.
I remember thinking the 2001 Patriots were lucky too.
In that game, the Pats had at one point trailed 13-3, and were down 13-10 when the infamous tuck rule saved Brady from a game-ending fumble that would have short-circuited that Super Bowl run in round two of the playoffs.
That team started the season with Drew Bledsoe at quarterback until Mo Lewis knocked him out in a New York Jets' victory over the Pats 10-3. More luck as they stumbled on Tom Brady as his replacement.
That team started 1 -3, and needed a 10-point comeback against the Chargers to avoid a 1-4 start.
They were called "lucky" all year—all the way to the Super Bowl that they were called "lucky" to win.
They got "all the calls," and "played poorly, but won." Sound familiar, Jets fans?
New York Jets
Former Tennessee Volunteers' head coach Johnny Majors once said, "Winners have to find a way to win." Wouldn't that make this Jets team a bunch of winners?
They have made snatching victory from the jaws of defeat an art-form over the last three weeks: Coming from behind to beat Detroit two weeks ago, winning with 16 seconds on the OT clock last week, and turning a blown lead into the latest "feather in the cap" moment for young Mark Sanchez.
It has certainly been a crazy ride for Jets' fans who are starting to get used to "Maalox Moments" toward the end of every game this season.
This week's win, however, was the craziest of this crazy ride.
Dominating the game, up 13 points with the ball at midfield early in the fourth quarter, second-year back Shonn Greene coughed it up on a draw play.
One play later, a blown secondary-assignment turned into a 47-yard Joel Dressen touchdown, and it was a six-point game.
After a rare Texan defensive stop, the Jets' defense was on the field again. Arian Foster scored his second TD of the day and the Houston 17-0 "basketball-style" run turned a 16-point deficit into a one-point lead.
But, good teams find a way, to paraphrase Mr. Majors.
Sanchez was forced into an interception, and the defense was on the field again. Bad teams would have collapsed.
But the defense found a way, stoning Foster three times, and the Texans settled for a Neil Rackers field goal.
Less than a minute, zero timeouts, and a second-year quarterback coming off a devastating interception. A team that should have been shell-shocked to blow a 16-point advantage, now needing a touchdown due to their latest mistake; the aforementioned Sanchez pick.
Sanchez, however, remained poised.
Connecting first along the sideline to Tomlinson, then in the middle of the field to get the ball to the 50. Sanchez spiked the ball and the Jets had a shot.
Looking off the safety, Sanchez threw a perfect deep ball, calmly handled by Braylon Edwards for 40 yards, and the Jets were in business with 16 seconds to go.
Sanchez then hit Santonio Holmes on a corner-fade into the end-zone, and the Jets had regained the lead for good, 30-27.
They aren't lucky. They are damn good.
They are making mistakes and struggling closing teams out. They are blowing assignments and making their fans tear their hair out.
But at the end of the day, as Bill Parcells said, "You are what your record says you are!" And that is an 8-2 football team. The team tied with the Pats for the league's best record.
"We keep finding ways to win, and that's Championship teams do. If I have to apologize every week from here on out I will all the way to the Super Bowl," Rex Ryan said in the postgame press conference.
Is this team championship level? Time will tell. But one thing they aren't is lucky. They are taking advantage of the smallest of breaks and making the plays when it counts down the stretch to win games. That's what good teams do.