The Jets came to Chicago hoping to stomp out any doubts about their playoff potential, but instead wound up on the short end of a scoring-fest against the Bears, 38-34.
What would have clinched a playoff spot ended in a bittersweet loss, with the Jets producing a tremendous offense but unable to stave off Jay Cutler's quick-strike ability in the third quarter.
Cutler threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter, two to Johnny Knox. None of his drives took longer than the 2:30 that was consumed on the final drive where Cutler found Knox for his second touchdown and a 38-31 lead.
Anyone watching the shootout might have thought neither team was intent on losing, even though the Jets were playing for the playoffs and the Bears, the NFC North clinched, played for seeding advantages.
But few might have expected such a scoring deluge against two of the NFL's top defensive units. Usually reliable when handed leads, neither enjoyed their prosperity for long.
Sanchez, with help from a defensive touchdown on Dwight Lowery's 20-yard interception return, helped the Jets put up 24 points in the second quarter, 21 unanswered after the Bears went up 10-0 in the first. The Bears, down 24-17 at intermission, put up 21 points in the third quarter. But the Jets stayed on their tails and trailed 38-34 in the fourth quarter. And when Robbie Gould pushed a 35-yard field goal wide right for his first miss from inside 40 yards this season, the Jets remained in prime position.
But the game turned into a field-position battle after that, with each defense smothering the offenses that had dominated the first 54 minutes of the game. The Jets had a final drive start at their 28 with 1:03 remaining with no timeouts, but Sanchez's final throw to Santonio Holmes was intercepted by Chris Harris to allow Cutler to kneel out the rest of the time.