- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When it was over, minutes after their all-time choke job had morphed into a win for the ages, Rex Ryan stood before his team in the locker room and tried to describe what had just happened. This, according to players, was how the coach began:
How else can you describe the New York Jets' 30-27, come-from-ahead victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at the new Meadowlands stadium? Quite simply, it was one of the most memorable wins in franchise history, an escape that made their past two wins -- both in overtime -- seem mundane.
In a matter of seconds, the Jets went from choking dogs to crunch-time heroes.
They blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter to the defensively challenged Texans and, if the game had ended in a logical fashion, it would've been the second-biggest, fourth-quarter home collapse in franchise story, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They blew a 17-point lead in 1960, when the Jets weren't the Jets -- they were known as the Titans -- and their home turf was the Polo Grounds.
Some folks will lament the disappearing act by the defense and Shonn Greene's fumble and Rob Turner's idiotic personal-foul penalty on a kickoff return, all of which contributed to the meltdown, but let's save that for another day. Let's focus on the final 49 seconds, when the Jets (8-2) staged the wildest of endings.
"It's getting out of control," said Braylon Edwards, alluding to the Jets' last-minute victories. "It's hard to describe, but it's better to watch than figure out."
Mark Sanchez said, "It's sort of like 'Groundhog Day.'" Shaun Ellis, who has been around this place longer than anyone, called it "by far the craziest" game he's ever experienced. This from someone who lived the Monday Night Miracle in 2000.
Ryan apologized to the fans for putting too much stress on their hearts. He shifted into defiant mode, saying: "I can already see the headline: 'Far From Great.' Who cares? We won. We'll take it."
This was no time for a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude from the coach. This was a day to sit back and marvel. Or, from the Texans' perspective, a day to be sick.
After losing last week on a Hail Mary, they became the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games on a touchdown pass in the final 10 seconds, according to Elias. It was their fourth straight defeat.
This time, it was Sanchez to Santonio Holmes (yes, him again) with 10 seconds left, culminating a five-play, 72-yard drive that took 39 seconds -- all with no timeouts at their disposal. How improbable is that? If the two teams replayed the final 49 seconds, the Jets probably would've been stopped 95 times out of 100.
But these are the Jets, and anything is possible. They've had six wins in which the game-winning, game-tying or game-saving play was made in the final 90 seconds, including Holmes coming up huge in the past three. Sanchez reminded his teammates of that when he stepped into the huddle before the scoring pass to Holmes, which came after a 42-yard strike to Edwards.
"Well, guys, this is how we do it," Sanchez said in the huddle, according to teammates. "Let's go do it."
After holding the Texans to a field goal in the final minute -- a pride stand by the defense -- the Jets took over at their 28-yard line with 49 seconds left. The miracle drive started with a 5-yard check down to LaDainian Tomlinson. On second down, the Texans dropped into a deep zone, leaving the middle open. Tomlinson ran a circle route, and ran like crazy for 19 yards.
"We saw a certain defense, that's why he threw it so fast," Tomlinson said. "He allowed me to do what I do."
After a spike, the ball was on the Houston 48, still a long shot for the Jets. Edwards ran a "go" route along the right sideline, not expecting to get the ball. The Texans were in a Cover 2 defense, with safety Eugene Wilson cheated toward the middle. Sanchez looked inside, then saw Edwards open deep. Wilson couldn't recover in time.
Sanchez made the throw of his life, a rocket that dropped from the sky like a feather.
"That throw to Braylon was incredible," Tomlinson said.
The Jets' sideline perked up, players standing on the bench to get a better view. The half-empty stadium came to life, thinking, They can't do it again, can they?
The JumboTron flashed a shot of fans outside the stadium, the pessimists who packed it in, watching from giant TVs in the concourse.
Houston, rattled, called timeout with 16 seconds left. Sanchez, making like Joe Cool (Montana, that is), tossed a perfect fade route to Holmes for the touchdown.
On sideline, injured tackle Damien Woody, in disbelief, said to no one in particular, "Did we just score a touchdown?"
In his club box, GM Mike Tannenbaum, the man who assembled this cast of talent, thought immediately about Ryan's message to the team.
"Rex talked Saturday night about being mentally tough, and I thought that was a great example of being mentally tough," Tannenbaum said.
Holmes, who caught seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, is the toughest of them all, an emerging MVP candidate. The former Super Bowl MVP, who scored last week in overtime, lives for the big catch.
"We definitely don't want our fans biting their nails off, running into walls or posts or whatever," Holmes said. "We just want them sitting in their comfortable chairs, eating popcorn. But situations like this happen, and that's what we get paid the big bucks for."
Clearly, the Jets have some issues that need to be resolved because the law of averages will bite them one day, maybe one day in January. But there's no denying this team has a special quality.
"So much has been made of what's supposed to happen this year," said Brandon Moore, alluding to the huge expectations. "So when that inkling of a loss comes up, guys just step up."
Ryan said it best: Wow.