The Jets Stumble and Bumble Into First Place

Yesterday could have turned out so ugly for the Jets, and it probably should have. The Jets somehow came back against a feisty (and not “bad”) Detroit Lions team 23-20 in overtime, and the temptation is to be disappointed, to note that the Jets were this close to losing their second in a row and sending their supposed Super Bowl season into disarray. But we’ll let the film-room folks worry about that part. With every other team in the AFC East losing yesterday, the Jets’ win put them back in first place in the division and, as Rex Ryan might put it, “leading the league in fucking wins.”

Ryan called the Jets “fortunate” after the game, which is a kind way of saying the Jets had no business winning. Even though this was supposed to be the game the Jets ran the ball down the Lions’ throat, that didn’t happen; neither LaDainian Tomlinson nor Shonn Greene ever did quite get going. (Though Greene looked better.) Instead, the Jets fell behind and had to pass, which, considering how terrible Mark Sanchez had looked for most of the game, was exactly what they didn’t want to see happen.

And yet there was Sanchez again, looking like he was wearing the wrong contacts for the first three quarters before figuring out the right prescription in the fourth. These fourth-quarter wake-ups for Sanchez might be burnishing his legend a bit — though just a bit — but they’re certainly not making it any easier for the Jets. That doesn’t mean they’re not fun, though: His deep passes to Braylon Edwards in the fourth and Santonio Holmes in overtime won this game for the Jets. He might not have it totally figured out yet, but when the Jets are behind late, you don’t feel the game is over, no matter how Sanchez has played earlier in the game.

The defense was also a bit of a concern, and the Jets even looked a little — gasp — intimidated. Bart Scott said after the game that the Lions were one of the dirtiest teams he’d ever played against, and that does help explain how tentative the defense played. But on the whole: This game might have said more about the Lions’ dramatic improvement over the last two years than it does about the Jets. The Lions played their best game in two years; the Jets looked lost and confused and a little scared. And the Jets still won. The Jets’ problems are the same problems they’ve had the last few weeks, but they’re fixable. And it’s easier to fix them after a win than a loss.

Next week, the Jets travel to Cleveland to face their old pal Eric Mangini, who just did them a nice favor by wiping out his old boss Belichick yesterday. The Browns are more formidable than they might have seemed a week ago. But the Jets are in a lot better shape heading into that game than they would have been with two straight losses. The Jets are finding ways to win games they don’t deserve to. Assuming those fixes are coming, lucky or not, the Jets have to just love where they are.

The Jets Stumble and Bumble Into First Place