Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Saturday, December 4, 2010
Jets know what invincible feels like

By Tim Graham

Mark Sanchez/Brian Sipe
Mark Sanchez has shown the same uncanny ability to win games in the fourth quarter that Browns QB Brian Sipe had with the "Kardiac Kids" in 1980.
Dave Logan was hunkered down with some work notes two weeks ago, looked up at the television and traveled back 30 years.

The Denver Broncos' radio play-by-play man was preparing for their Monday night game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 11 and noticed old friend Gary Kubiak was about to score a big victory as head coach of the Houston Texans.

The Texans led the New York Jets by a point at the Meadowlands and had a first down at the two-minute warning because Mark Sanchez threw an interception. The Texans tacked on a field goal with 55 seconds left. That should've been that.

But then Logan watched Sanchez make "just a perfect throw" to Braylon Edwards down the right sideline for 42 yards. Logan remarked "There's just no way he's supposed to hit that route" based on the Texans' coverage. On the next play, Sanchez connected with Santonio Holmes in the left corner of the end zone to win.

"When they do stuff like that, it does remind me of a pretty good year," Logan said.

In 1980, Logan played wide receiver for a Cleveland Browns team known as the Kardiac Kids for their defibrillator finishes.

Win or lose, the Browns seemed to take it to the wire each week. Brian Sipe slung the ball around to five different targets who caught at least 50 passes. The Browns dropped their first two games, but won 11 of the remaining 14. Their three losses in that span were white knucklers that should've been victories.

The upstart Browns won the AFC Central after years of Pittsburgh Steelers dominance and back-to-back appearances by the Houston Oilers in the AFC Championship Game. The Browns lost in the divisional round of the playoffs that year, but that's not the part that Logan finds familiar when he considers the Jets.

The Jets have strung together an obnoxious number of stunning victories this year. They're riding a wave of confidence few teams get to experience.

"L-O-S-E is no longer in your vocabulary," said Sam Rutigliano, head coach of the 1980 Browns.

Invincibility becomes a weapon, and it might be necessary if the Jets are to stand up to the New England Patriots on Monday night in Gillette Stadium, where quarterback Tom Brady has won 25 straight games.

The Patriots have won with relative ease and seem to be in command of their opponents compared to the Jets' high-wire act of the past seven weeks.

Santonio Holmes
Santonio Holmes has come through several times in the clutch for the Jets this season.
The Jets routinely have trailed late or allowed a team to come back and tie the game.

Many look at what the Jets have done and call it blind luck. Regardless of how they're winning, however, the experience almost becomes a tangible, powerful asset.

"Now I know we have a chance no matter what," Sanchez said.

The Jets became the first team in NFL history to go into overtime on the road and win two weeks in a row. Tack on the miraculous Texans victory, and the Jets became the first team since the 2006 Tennessee Titans to score their winning points inside the final 10 seconds of a game three straight times.

"When you win in that fashion you become really difficult to beat," Logan said. "Even if you get down in a game, you never feel like you're out. So you're still battling. You still have guys making plays.

"You get behind in a big game in the fourth quarter and you've never been there before, then maybe guys start to grip a little bit. But when you've had that kind of success like the Jets this year and we did in 1980, it's in the back of your minds that 'Listen, we've been here before. We know we're going to go down and score. How much time's left? Two minutes? OK. Where's the ball? Minus-30. OK, we got 70 yards in two minutes. No problem.' "

Logan called another one of the Jets' crazy victories. In Week 6, Sanchez threw a fourth-down desperation heave down the left sideline to Holmes. Broncos safety Renaldo Hill got his fingers accidentally tangled in Holmes' facemask near the goal line. Pass interference was called. One play later, LaDainian Tomlinson scored a touchdown. The Jets won by four points.

That was the start of the daredevil Jets dodging defeat.

"Don't think other teams around the league aren't aware of it, either," Logan said. "In tight games, late and the Jets have the ball with the chance to win, in the back of the other teams' minds, they're thinking 'Here it comes again.' "

Rutigliano was a Jets defensive assistant when Joe Namath was the quarterback. Rutigliano notices that Sanchez is developing the same ability Namath and Sipe (league MVP in 1980) had of turning teammates into believers.

"A quarterback is like a tea bag," Rutigliano said. "You don't know what you got until you put him in hot water.

"What's happening to Sanchez right now, the best quarterback coaches in the world can't teach him. He's learning it himself. Now he expects to win and is starting to empower people to play at a level they never thought they could play at."

Sanchez recently explained he'd never led a fourth-quarter comeback victory at any level until Denver. His teams at Mission Viejo High and USC were so dominant the opportunities were rare.

Now Sanchez has four fourth-quarter comebacks in his past six games.

"It's always been something that I've wanted," Sanchez said. "I know that that was kind of a knock coming out of college, that 'He's never had a come back in a game. They've been up. He hasn't played a lot of football.' To me, that was 'All right, give me a chance to come back. I'm going to win it, not making a miraculous play, but just making the plays we know how to make.' That's what we've done."