- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After a brutal first half, the Jets came to life against the woeful Jaguars, grounding and pounding their way to a 17-10 win Sunday at EverBank Field. The Jets rushed for 167 yards and the defense dominated on third down for the second straight week. Remarkably, they have their first winning streak of the season.
What it means: The Jets (6-7), capitalizing on their easy schedule, kept alive their slim playoff hopes. More importantly, they quieted the quarterback controversy. Embattled starter Mark Sanchez didn't play well, but he also didn't implode. Basically, he did a good job of handing off to Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, who each scored a touchdown. The Jaguars dropped to 2-11.
Survival -- and that's it: Sanchez's starting job is safe -- for another week anyway. He got off to a shaky start, coughing it up on a strip sack, but he settled down and managed to stay out of the way. The play calling was ultraconservative, especially in the fourth quarter. You'd like to say Sanchez validated Rex Ryan's decision to stick with him as the starter, but that was a no-brainer. Ryan all but admitted that by dropping Greg McElroy back to No. 3. Sanchez (12-for-19, 111 yards) still looked tentative in the pocket, so this was hardly a cure-all win. He was needed to make only one big-time throw -- and he hit tight end Jeff Cumberland on a third down for 37 yards to seal the win.
The Tebow decision: Surprisingly, Ryan decided to dress only two quarterbacks -- Sanchez and a banged-up Tim Tebow (ribs), who didn't play a single snap. McElroy, who saved last week's game and almost got the starting nod (if you believe Ryan), was inactive.
The Jets said the plan was to dress all three, but they claimed they needed the roster spot for fourth-string running back Kahlil Bell. Third-stringer Joe McKnight developed a migraine Sunday morning, and they wanted some insurance. It still made no sense. Ryan did the same thing three weeks ago against the Patriots, leaving himself vulnerable at the most important position. Ryan didn't give himself the option of using McElroy out of the bullpen -- a bad coaching decision.
Bad luck continues: Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the second quarter. He slipped on damp grass and appeared to hyperextend his right knee. The TV replay wasn't pretty. Hill, grimacing in pain, pounded his first into the turf. An ACL injury would be a tremendous setback for Hill, who, despite his struggles, remains a big part of the Jets' future.
Their best defensive player, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, went out in the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury, though he later returned.
Skeleton lineup: The Jets played most of this game without their three top weapons -- wide receiver Santonio Holmes (season-ending foot injury), tight end Dustin Keller (ankle) and Hill. The Jets were forced to use a motley crew of castoffs and practice-squad players at receiver and tight end.
Medal for the defense: The Jets beat up a bad offense for the second straight week, holding the Jaguars to 291 total yards. It was a dominating performance, especially on third down (2-for-16), but let's not throw a parade. The Jaguars were down to their No. 2 quarterback (Chad Henne) and their No. 4 tailback (Montell Owens), and their top receiver (Cecil Shorts) was sidelined with a concussion.
The big play was a red zone interception by linebacker Bart Scott, benefiting from a wounded duck -- courtesy of a quarterback hit by linebacker Garrett McIntyre. The Jets made only three sacks, but they pressured Henne with an array of pressure schemes. They owned third down for the second straight week. In the past two weeks, they've held opponents to 3-for-31.
What's ahead: The Jets remain on the road to face the Titans (4-9) on Monday night -- a chance to redeem themselves in prime time.