Santonio Holmes a new man at site of last season's meltdown

Jets receiver Santonio Holmes makes a catch during

Jets receiver Santonio Holmes makes a catch during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. (Sept. 23, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

MIAMI

The last time Santonio Holmes was in this stadium, his late-game meltdown and subsequent benching made you wonder whether that would be his final game in a Jets' uniform. With time ticking down on what would be the final debacle in a late-season collapse, Holmes got into a screaming match in the huddle with right tackle Wayne Hunter and had to be restrained by several teammates.

It was an unacceptable moment of pique from one of the Jets' captains, prompting Holmes' benching by then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and prompting coach Rex Ryan to do away with captains altogether.

But on a day when the Jets desperately needed someone to step up and save them from one of the most unimpressive displays we've seen in the Ryan era, it was Holmes who produced one of his most brilliant performances since being traded to the Jets from Pittsburgh in 2010.

The mercurial wide receiver had nine catches for 147 yards, including a 38-yard catch in overtime, as the Jets managed to overcome a slew of mistakes to beat the Dolphins, 23-20, at Sun Life Stadium.

"[Holmes] played his absolute [butt] off," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "To come back in the environment that brought back so many bad memories, for him to fight it off, he made some unbelievable catches. They were Santonio Holmes catches."

Sanchez was positively brutal at times, throwing two interceptions and misfiring on several passes that would have resulted in big gains -- and even a couple of touchdowns -- had he been more accurate. Afterward, the quarterback admitted he "didn't have it. I allowed too many incompletions out there, missing throws I usually make."

Sanchez expressed gratitude to others for helping the team overcome his mistakes, but no one was more valuable than Holmes, who had his first 100-yard game since the 2010 season. A conversation with wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal proved instrumental.

"He told me to just play the game that I know how to play, and I believed every word that he told me and I allowed the game to come to me," Holmes said. "I just went out and played Santonio Holmes football. Sanchez felt really comfortable [with me], put the ball in great places and we did what we had to do to steal a victory in Miami."

And yes, the Jets did steal this one. They played poorly through most of the game, failing to move the ball and allowing rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who had lost star tailback Reggie Bush to a first-half knee injury, to take a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

But Sanchez gathered himself on a late fourth-quarter drive, hitting Jeremy Kerley with the go-ahead touchdown with 3:01 to go in regulation, before the Dolphins tied it on a Dan Carpenter field goal to force overtime. And, after Carpenter missed a 48-yard field- goal try in overtime, Sanchez and Holmes connected on the biggest play of the game.

On second-and-4 from the Jets' 44, Holmes lined up to the left of the formation, and drew single coverage from Dolphins safety Chris Clemons. The play called for Holmes to run a "go" route straight up the left sideline, and Clemons tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the route. But Holmes "gave him a good club with my right arm, and I got separation."

Sanchez floated a perfectly thrown pass to Holmes, who ran to the Dolphins' 18. Three plays later, Nick Folk kicked the game-winning 33-yard field goal to run the Jets' record to 2-1.

The Jets can thank Holmes for saving them from some major early-season gloom. After quitting on the team in last year's finale, he came back to save them this time.

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