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DETROIT -- For 56 minutes, the New York Jets were undisciplined, careless with the football and, in critical moments, utterly confused. It was so bleak that, if the Mark Sanchez fine system for bad body language had been enforced on the entire team, the Jets would owe enough cash to buy a PSL at the New Meadowlands.
So, of course, they won the game, stunning the Detroit Lions Sunday in a Motown Miracle, 23-20, in overtime. They won because Lions coach Jim Schwartz suffered a case of brain flatulence and because they have mastered the art of stealing wins on the road.
The Jets did it in Denver three weeks ago -- thank you, Renaldo Hill -- and they did it to the hapless Lions. They capitalized on a clock-management gaffe by Schwartz, as Sanchez morphed into John Elway, leading scoring drives on his final three possessions. For the first time since 2004, the Jets have two road wins in which they trailed at the start of the fourth quarter.
And they laughed among themselves as they exited Ford Field, no doubt checking the rearview mirror to see if the cops were pursuing them for robbery.
"Quite honestly, we'd have preferred a first-round knockout," said Rex Ryan, his team back in first place at 6-2. "That didn't happen. We got knocked down a few times and were bloodied. But we won the championship rounds ... Obviously, we feel fortunate we got the win, but we don't care. We'll take it. That's what good teams do; they find a way to win."
And bad teams find a way to lose, and that's exactly what the Lions (2-6) did.
Leading by three points with two minutes to play in regulation, the Lions tried a third-down bootleg pass (incomplete) instead of a run. Bad idea by Schwartz. The Jets had no timeouts remaining and a simple running play -- even for a loss -- would've kept the clock moving. That he called a pass with Drew Stanton at quarterback -- in for the injured Matthew Stafford -- made it even more ridiculous. Stanton should've taken a sack.
Stanton and Schwartz: Dumb & Dumber.
The Jets were stunned, delightfully stunned. On the bench, right guard Brandon Moore turned to center Nick Mangold and said, "We've got a chance."
Said right tackle Damien Woody: "They did us a favor. I was like, 'Why are they throwing the ball?'"
After the punt, Jets took over at their 22 with 1:40 left. If Schwartz had done the right thing, there would've been only a minute left, tops. Those extra 40 seconds were huge, as the Jets needed every single one of them to tie the game on Nick Folk's 36-yard field goal with 0:00 on the clock.
"Yeah, that's my fault," said Schwartz, adding that he did a poor job of communicating to Stanton that he needed to keep the clock running if the pass wasn't there.
Did the Jets get lucky? Yes, but give them credit for capitalizing. Unlike the Denver game, in which they scored immediately after Hills' 46-yard, fourth-down penalty for pass interference, this required more than a single play after The Break. This required a desperation scoring drive by Sanchez, who ran the two-minute drill with the aplomb of a seasoned vet.
He did it so well that, on the first drive of overtime, the Jets stayed in a hurry-up mode. The result was a 52-yard pass to Santonio Holmes, setting up Folk's game winner from 30 yards. On the final three scoring drives, Sanchez was 10-for-13 for 144 yards, with a 1-yard scoring run.
Not bad for a second-year quarterback still prone to poutiness. Hence, the kangaroo court for bad body language. Ryan credited coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for guiding Sanchez, who passed for a career-high 336 yards, through the mayhem of the hurry-up. Remember, he did it with no timeouts.
"There was a little p-p-p-panic on my part," Ryan said, mocking himself, "but there was none on his part. He was as solid as a rock and so was the kid."
But let's be real here; let's not sugarcoat this victory and forget the rest of the story. The Jets committed 11 penalties, lost the turnover battle (minus-2), couldn't run the ball against the 27th-ranked rush defense and wasted two timeouts in one sequence because the defense was confused.
If Schwartz hadn't screwed up, the Jets probably would be 5-3, losers of two straight, with cracks in the foundation.
"We're killing ourselves with penalties," Moore said. "We could've easily lost that game. You're sick and tired of the same story being played out every Sunday. Things like that lose games."
The Jets produced 437 yards in total offense, but 172 came on the final three possessions. Another came on Braylon Edwards' 74-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Basically, the offense was a mess, and you could feel Schottenheimer's seat getting warmer.
"We're definitely not playing well right now," said Edwards, who lost a fumble with careless ballhandling. "We're not playing well enough to consistently win games, especially those big games, so we have to get it corrected."
Welcome to the Jets' season: Imperfectly impressive.
"I'd rather be in first place with a bad showing," linebacker Bart Scott said, "than in second place with a good showing."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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