The previous time Tim Tebow was on the field at Sun Life Stadium, he completed a dramatic overtime victory and sparked Tebowmania.
But the Jets’ fourth-quarter rally and subsequent overtime win on Sunday had nothing to do with Tebow.
Although starting quarterback Mark Sanchez struggled all game, New York coach Rex Ryan stuck with Sanchez, a decision that paid off. Sanchez orchestrated a 53-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to give the Jets their first lead and again was there in overtime to help set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal.
“It looked bleak there for awhile,” Ryan said. “We have that mentality that good things are heading our way and we just kept believing and kept fighting. I thought Mark did a tremendous job and it shows what kind of competitor he is.”
About to start his team’s drive with 5:32 remaining in regulation, Sanchez had thrown two interceptions, held a quarterback rating of 33.9 and had completed just one of his last eight throws. Sanchez himself admitted he was having a dismal game.
“I just wasn’t making throws that I can make,” Sanchez said. “You study your butt off and you feel good about the plan, you feel good in warm-ups and sometimes it just doesn’t work.”
But despite Sanchez’s struggles, wide receiver Santonio Holmes was there to bail out his quarterback again and again.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t feel good [out there], but I believed in him,” Holmes said. “I kept talking to him all game. We talked about winning this ballgame together. … We played Holmes and Sanchez football.”
Added Sanchez: “He had those cornerbacks on their heels all day. They didn’t know where he was going, which way he was turning, whether it was an underneath route or a deep route.”
Holmes made 18- and 15-yard receptions late in the fourth quarter to help set up Sanchez’s 7-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Even though it was only the Jets’ first offensive touchdown, it was enough to give them the 20-17 lead.
In total, Holmes finished the game with nine catches for 147 yards.
None were bigger than the one he made in overtime.
On second-and-4 and with the ball on his team’s own 44-yard line, Holmes beat cornerback Richard Marshall down the left sideline and caught Sanchez’s pass before being tackled at the 18-yard line.
“I think [Marshall] got too aggressive and wanted to jam me up at the line of scrimmage,” Holmes said. “[Marshall] overstepped himself and… I ripped through him and got separation. All I did was look up and the ball was placed beautifully.”
Holmes would not explicitly admit that he felt vindicated for having been criticized for belittling the Miami secondary earlier in the week.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
The catch was all the Jets needed to win the game, as Folk’s kick from 33 yards out ended the hard-fought contest three plays later.
Sanchez said he did not watch Folk’s kick – he said he never watches them. But with that kick, an at-times awful day had been redeemed.
The victory will make the trip back to New York easier for Sanchez.
Ryan, meanwhile, will have other concerns on his mind, namely the health of star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
In his first game back since suffering a concussion, Revis injured his knee on a non-contact play in the third quarter and is believed to have injured his ACL. Ryan said Revis will have an MRI on Monday.
“Clearly with Darrelle, your best player, of course, you’re going to be concerned,’’ Ryan said. “I don’t know anything about it right now. We’ll find out with the MRI tomorrow.”