FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – When the Jets and Patriots played in Week 2, Santonio Holmes was sitting at home on his couch, halfway through his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
Truth be told, he doesn't even remember watching the game on television.
“I didn’t care about football at that time, because there was nothing I could do about it,” he said.
Fortunately for the Jets, there’s plenty Holmes can do this time around against New England.
For the past four weeks, he’s been a human walk-off home run for the Jets, making plays with the game on the line that tilt the outcome in the Jets’ favor.
Holmes set up Nick Folk’s overtime field goal with a 52-yard catch-and-run against the Lions, and scored game-winning touchdowns at Cleveland and against the Texans in successive weeks.
“He can make one or two plays in the game that can be the difference of whether you win or lose,” Rex Ryan said.
The shotgun wedding between Holmes and the Jets that commenced on April 11, 2010 couldn’t have worked out better for both sides. GM Mike Tannenbaum acquired Holmes that day from the Steelers for a fifth-round pick.
Shortly after the trade, the league announced that Holmes was suspended for the first four games of 2010 for violating its substance-abuse policy. Holmes sat out the Jets first four games. Since his return, Gang Green is 6-1, though that record could look much different if it weren’t for Holmes’ late-game heroics.
“He’s playing lights-out,” Braylon Edwards said.
And it’s more than just late-game heroics.
Over the last four games, Holmes is averaging 5.5 catches and 80 yards per game. He said on Monday that feels in synch with Mark Sanchez after getting acclimated over the first three weeks of his season, which should be troubling for a New England pass defense that's ranked 32nd in the league.
Monday night will be Holmes’ first taste of the Patriots-Jets rivalry. Not that he’s getting caught up in the hype. The Super Bowl XLIII MVP said on Monday that he sees New England as another team on the schedule.
“I wouldn’t even consider it a rivalry right now. We’ve just got one mission, that’s to beat the next team that’s in front of us,” he said.
But the Patriots aren’t just the next team on the schedule. This game will have huge implications for both the AFC East and the conference’s playoff seeding. And it’s Jets-Patriots, which, since Bill Parcells left the Patriots to coach the Jets in 1997, has developed into one of the league's most bitter rivalries.
Holmes doesn’t know that yet. Fortunately for the Jets, he’ll be on the field to find out on Monday night in Foxboro.