The New York Jets fancy themselves as the type of team that not only beats you, but demoralizes you. Not in the Steve Spurrier run-up-the-score way; in the knock-you-around-and-make-you-feel-stupid-for-even-trying way. It’s a central tenet of the Rex Ryan style. Yesterday, though, the Jets won in a way that’s even more important; they won by playing poorly and getting lucky. Those wins count just as much, and they’re indicative of a team that might be truly special. When you win in your off weeks, against a desperate, inspired team with a deafening home crowd, you are championship material. Winning unimpressively might be one of the most impressive ways to win.
The Jets beat the Broncos 24-20 yesterday despite having all the attributes that they count as strengths go wrong. Darrelle Revis, still gimpy, played hard but still had a rough game. (Perhaps the Jets should have just given him a week off ahead of the bye week.) Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions for the first time since last December. LaDainian Tomlinson, after displaying his five-time All-Pro form all season up to this point, had nothing for the first three quarters. The Broncos’ crowd, revved up to have the cocky Hard Knocks guys in town, had the Jets rattled most of the afternoon. Heck, the Jets gave up a touchdown to Tim Tebow.
And the Jets still won, thanks largely to a controversial pass-interference call. On fourth and six late in the fourth quarter, Sanchez chucked a oh-what-the-hell-let’s-see-what-happens pass downfield that was practically begging to be intercepted. Instead, Broncos safety Renaldo Hill accidentally grabbed Santonio Holmes’s face mask, and what would have been the Jets’ final offensive play suddenly turned into first and goal. The call did seem to be the correct one, but it was a crazy, game-turning call that most officials wouldn’t have the guts to make, particularly without an obvious shove and with an Invesco Field crowd ready to explode. Tomlinson ran it in, and the Broncos had one last chance. Even with the lead and the Jets’ vaunted defense, you still had the sense that the Broncos would pull it out. It almost seemed just. Then came a bad snap by a rookie center, and the Jets, somehow, had the win. Everything had to bounce just right for the Jets to win, and everything did. This is not the type of game that makes the highlight films, but it is the type of game that matters. The Jets looked charmed.
And it’s looking like a charmed season. At 5-1, the Jets have a bye week and don’t play again until Halloween, against the suddenly reeling Packers. After that, the schedule finally loosens up. The Jets travel to Detroit and Cleveland, and then host Houston and Cincinnati. If the Jets can hold serve at home and beat the weak sisters on the road, they’re looking at 10-1, with a ten-game winning streak, heading into Week 13, Monday Night Football at Foxboro against the Patriots. A loss yesterday, and they’re a half-game behind the Pats, with two weeks to think about their worst performance of the season. Instead, they have the best record in the NFL, all the momentum, and the sense of invincibility that has served them so well. You might never want to think of yesterday’s game again, but you can make a strong argument it’ll end up the most important win of the season.