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The Jets Win As Only They Can

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Nick Folk #2 of the New York Jets celebrates with teammates Dustin Keller #81, Mark Brunell #8 and Brandon Moore #65 of the New York Jets after FOlk kicked a successful 50-yard game-winning field goal against the Dallas Cowboys during their NFL Season Opening Game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The new, sabermetric-esque study of the NFL popularized by Football Outsiders and Grantland's Bill Barnwell — both of which we've been poring over for a fortnight, preparing for the season — would call a game like last night's wild, inspirational, lunatic Jets 27–24 win over the Cowboys "non-sustainable luck due for regression." The Jets had no business winning last night. Mark Sanchez threw for a lot of yards but made the sort of mistakes that Mark Sanchez absolutely cannot make. Antonio Cromartie had a wretched game in the secondary. The offensive line looked shockingly weak. The Cowboys looked like the better team, all night. Well, almost all night.

As Yahoo's Shutdown Corner noted last night, the Dallas Cowboys, coming into this season, had never lost a game in which they led by fourteen points or more in the fourth quarter. And there was little reason to think that streak would be snapped last night, with the Cowboys up by seven, facing a third-and-goal, with nine minutes left. All the Cowboys needed was a field goal ... and the Jets forced a fumble. Hope again.

There was also little reason — less reason, really — to think that streak would be snapped when Sanchez committed his second turnover, fumbling with 2:51 left and giving Dallas the ball back at midfield. (It was not one of Sanchez's better moments.) The Cowboys just needed one first down, maybe two, to ice away they game. But three-and-out they went, and then, out of nowhere, Joe McKnight, the so-often-mocked former phenom, broke through, blocked a punt, the game was tied and Snoopy was doing a happy dance atop MetLife Stadium. Then came a terrible pass from Tony Romo leading to the first Darrelle Revis interception since December 13, 2009, and then a monster Nick Folk 50-yard field goal, and suddenly, ridiculously, the Jets had won. Somehow. The Jets were outplayed, and had their gaping flaws (the O-line, the lack of commitment to the run game, Mark Sanchez still) exposed ... and they still won in as stirring a fashion imaginable.

Rex Ryan, who was perhaps more revved up and anxious coming into this game than he should have been, was openly relieved afterward.

"We played far from a perfect game - not even close," Ryan said. "We tried to harness all the emotion we were feeling and turn it into passion. We just kept thinking momentum is coming our way and sure enough it did."

The Jets now look primed to be 3–0 — though with this team, you never know — heading into a Week Four match-up in Baltimore. The Jets' schedule is so tough this year that a home loss like this could have been more damaging than it should have been. We learned a lot about the Jets last night — that Sanchez and the O-line must improve, that Plaxico Burress has plenty left (and also has flexible celebration moves) — but we learned most what we already knew: That Ryan and company have inexplicable mojo that helps them win when they shouldn't. Of all the off-season changes, that was the one thing the Jets couldn't afford to lose. They haven't.

Photo: Elsa/2011 Getty Images