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MIAMI -- Dressed in a light gray suit, Darrelle Revis was moving from familiar face to familiar face outside the New York Jets' locker room, limping slowly but doing so without the help of crutches or a team aide. The cornerback did not come across as a broken man when he engaged in some small talk, shook some hands, and leaned into a few friendly hugs.
If Revis knew he had a torn ACL in his left knee, or some other major leg injury, he was doing his very best to hide it.
"I'm not answering any questions on it," he told an approaching reporter, and soon enough Revis hobbled down the Sun Life Stadium tunnel and toward the team bus as he wheeled his black travel bag along the way.
|Mark Sanchez said he didn't have it against the Dolphins on Sunday.|
On a certain level, it wasn't Revis' time or place to field the tough questions of the day. He's the best of the Jets, one of the greatest players in franchise history, and a guy who made what appeared to be a game-changing fumble recovery early in the third quarter before Mark Sanchez threw the ball into the end zone and into the arms of the Miami Dolphins.
For the most part, Revis was playing up to his standards before his leg gave out and left him writhing in pain on the field, left him to be carted off to the locker room while the assigned driver patted him on the shoulder pad in a Hey, it's not the end of the world way.
The rest of the Jets? The ones who might have to play and coach the balance of the season without a defensive back who knows no peer?
They deserved to be interrogated to the nth degree. The final score is the ultimate judge and jury in the NFL, but that score -- Jets 23, Dolphins 20 in overtime -- was a liar in this context:
Right now the Jets aren't a good football team, not even close. In fact, they might be the worst first-place team in any league on any continent.
That could change, of course. The Jets could suddenly find themselves next week against the San Francisco 49ers (a possibility listed as doubtful), or the following week against the Houston Texans (questionable), and navigate their way to a third AFC Championship Game in the Sanchez/Rex Ryan era.
Or they could continue to play the brand of football they played Sunday, finish 7-9, and then cower under their desks or at their lockers while the boss decides who stays and who goes.
"I do not think he can be too happy with our performance today," Yeremiah Bell said of Ryan.
Actually, Rex seemed pretty happy when his counterpart, Joe Philbin, iced kicker Nick Folk with a timeout just before the Jets snapped the ball and watched as Folk's first crack at a winning field goal was blocked by the Miami front.
Ryan cracked up on the sideline. It would've been a belly laugh if he still had that belly, but it was a laugh all the same. Earlier in overtime, when Miami's Dan Carpenter missed a 48-yarder that could've ended the Jets' season (or put it on life support) before it even started, Ryan twice pumped both fists in the air and screamed, "Yes. Yes."
When this endless, godforsaken game was finally over, decided on Folk's mulligan, Ryan looked and sounded like a man who had survived a dash with the bulls of Pamplona.
"Wow," he said of the victory, "I don't know if I've ever been in a tougher one than this. We'll certainly take the win. We're not going to give it back."
At the scene of his dramatic 2011 implosion, on the field where he declared himself the worst captain in the history of captains, Santonio Holmes "played his absolute ass off," Sanchez said. He saved the Jets with the big overtime catch and 147 receiving yards in all, ending a personal drought of 27 games without 100 yards or more.
But the redemption of Holmes -- however temporary his state of grace figures to be -- and the big-play ability of Jeremy Kerley were about the only encouraging angles on the Jets' side.
Stephen Hill dropped a gimme touchdown pass and appeared as overmatched as the replacement refs. Sanchez was terrible, throwing two interceptions (including the brutal one in the end zone) and missing on three potential touchdown passes, two on long balls to a wide-open receivers and one on a makeable throw to Jeff Cumberland while under heavy pressure.
Sanchez thanked his teammates "for picking me up when I didn't have it today." Asked why he didn't have it on a day when the Jets were desperate for him to, you know, have it, the quarterback said:
"I just wasn't making throws that I can make. I've got to go back and study the film whether it was footwork or something wasn't right early, and that's the way it goes sometimes. You study your butt off and feel good about the plan, feel good in warmups, and sometimes it doesn't work."
Too often it doesn't work for Sanchez, who didn't have it against the Pittsburgh Steelers, either. He threw such a ridiculous point-blank fastball to his best frenemy, Tim Tebow, that it bounced off the backup quarterback's helmet and into a highlight immediately booked for blooper reels around the world.
"I was not expecting it that quick," Tebow said through a laugh. "But I guess I'll learn."
Tebow also needs to learn how to run a pass route, something he was asked to do over and over again. He did pull off that fake out of punt formation and earned a first down that contributed to three points (Tebow confirmed special teams godfather Mike Westhoff gave him the authority to call the fake), but Tebow often ran his routes the way a guy on the scout team would.
He has known for playing all out, all the time, yet Tebow had decoy written all over him when he took his little square outs to the sideline, square outs lacking in urgency. That's one reason why Sanchez's heater smacked him in the head, and if Tebow is indeed the ultimate effort player he needs to show more next time around.
As it stands, Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano still have no idea what to do with Tebow and the Wildcat, their weapon of mass confusion. But the Jets' problems hardly end there. They needed a ton of breaks to beat a bad Miami team with a wobbly rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. If Reggie Bush had avoided injury and played in the second half after establishing himself as the best player on the field in the first, the Jets wouldn't have made it to overtime and the kicking follies that ensued.
"If it was supposed to be easy," Sanchez said, "there would be a lot more people doing this, a lot more people coaching."
But the man who is coaching, Ryan, did say before the season that this might be his best Jets team yet. Right now that claim appears about as solid as Rex's bygone guarantees, a truth that wasn't wiped out by Sunday's final score.