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The Morning After (The "We Stole One" Edition)

Jets head coach Rex Ryan celebrates a penalty

Jets head coach Rex Ryan celebrates a penalty call against the Denver Broncos. (Oct. 17, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Mark Sanchez needed about a nanosecond to answer my question.

"I don’t think so," the Jets second-year quarterback said. "No way. This one and Monday night."

The inquiry was whether the Jets would've been able to pull of a win like yesterday's 24-20 squeaker if this were last season. The Jets weren't much of a come-from-behind team since they were mostly pounding away with their top-ranked run game and had the handcuffs on Sanchez in 2009. 

"We just didn’t have it down the stretch last year," Sanchez said. "I would’ve thrown another pick last year, guaranteed. We would’ve given up something on defense last year. It just wouldn’t have gone our way."

But they found a way to get it done with Santonio Holmes making his first major contribution wearing Jets' garb. Aided by that critical pass interference penalty that helped them convert a fourth-and-6 from Denver's 48 with just over a minute remaining, the Jets escaped the Mile High City with a triumph that keeps them in first place in the AFC East going into their bye this week.

"This is one of those games that definitely measures your team’s heart," said Holmes, who had a significant hand in the outcome. "All coach kept talking about all week was coming home with a victory. 'It’s going to be a tough place for us to play.' We had to execute a  lot of things. We didn't do everything correctly, but we did what we needed to do to win the game."

And the Jets have Holmes to thank for it, along with Sanchez. The two, in just their second regular season game together, came up with that huge fourth-down play to keep the Jets' hopes alive. 

Holmes left Broncos CB Perrish Cox in the dust with a double move down the left sideline and got open a step in front of the goal line while he battled for position with S Renaldo Hill. Sanchez uncorked a nearly 50-yard throw in the air and Hill grabbed Holmes' facemask as he tried to corral the ball as he fell to the ground.

Holmes said he felt Hill's tug: "Right at the bottom, right when I got a chance to reach for the football. I lost sight of the ball, even though it hit me in the hands. But I didn't catch it because of him grabbing my face mask. I think I would've made the catch if he didn't grab me."

Holmes immediately raised his hands in protest looking for a flag.

"No question," he said. "I felt the guy grab my facemask and I didn't feel the flag come around. I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anybody cheering or booing. The crowd got silent, so I didn't know what happened until I stepped down and saw the flag underneath."

Hill's thoughts?

"I have nothing to say," he told reporters.

But the Jets, of course, had plenty to say after this one. They know they were lucky to get out of town with that victory after the turnover-filled, error-prone performance. They didn't play very well collectively on offense or defense -- until the final few minutes.

"Good teams find a way to win," LB Bart Scott said. "It’s not always going to go your way. They played with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart. A lot of credit to those guys; they were scrappy, they were trying to be physical, and they were trying to make plays. We were still within striking distance. It’s not always going to go your way. We had some turnovers, and they were a team that had nothing to lose.

"They played out there free. I don’t think anybody expected them to win. When you do that, you don’t really have a lot of nerves, so the pressure was all on us. People said this was going to be a trap game, and that’s why you see the onside kicks and things like that. They had a great game plan, and they executed well. We just made one last play to get it done. Sometimes it happens like that.”

Said Rex Ryan: "This is a tough football team, a resilient football team. …We are in the win business. We have five wins going into our bye week. It’s the top record in this league the last time I checked and we are right where we want to be.”

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