It looked like the Jets were going to die by the penalty flag on Sunday afternoon in Denver. They wound up living by it instead.
On fourth-and-six from midfield, down 20-17 with less than two minutes to play, Mark Sanchez, scrambling and short of options, heaved a ball downfield in the direction of Santonio Holmes. The ball seemed to hang in the ball forever before coming down to where Holmes and Broncos defensive back Renaldo Hill were waiting. There was some jostling and Hill grabbed Holmes' face mask as both men tried for the ball. The refs caught Hill, the Jets got the ball on the two and LaDainian Tomlinson took care of things from there to make it 24-20.
He didn't make the Jets win a given, however. Kyle Orton led the Broncos right back down the field on two long completions and had a third and six to convert and keep the home fans -- who were outstanding, loud and proud all day -- from crying all the way home. A shotgun snap scuttled along the ground, however, and Dwight Lowery recovered to make it a fifth straight win for the Jets.
What a difference a couple of plays can make in a game.
It was fitting that the game ended on such an ugly play because it was an ugly game all around. Sanchez had the kind of day that you feared was looming under his interception-free start to the season. He threw two picks and probably should have been picked three other times by a Bronco defense that played well beyond its reputation. The Broncos should probably have run away with the game, but they were intent on making their own brutal blunders.
Knowshon Moreno fumbled at the tail end of a run deep into Jets territory to end one first quarter drive and the Broncos botched a snap on a field goal attempt to waste another one. Matt Prater hit a 59-yard field goal just before the half and then missed a 49-yarder in the third quarter. They dropped interceptions, kept bringing in Tim Tebow to rob the offense of momentum and didn't take advantage of their hellacious home field advantage.
What caused all this ineptitude? The game was in Denver so the laws of sports dictate that you have to blame it on the altitude. Never mind that the Broncos should be used to it, we'll just chalk it up to that.
Of all the things to blame on the thin air, though, the penalties would have to be at the top of the Jets' list. The lack of proper oxygen to the brain resulted in six penalties for 74 yards, some of which were of the questionable variety but all of them served to help put the Broncos in position to score points. It was all too reminiscent of the opening night loss to the Ravens and some of the infamous foot-shooting teams of Jets history.
But, unlike those legendary teams of the past, this Jets team didn't wind up losing this game. That makes it five in a row and they've come in all different guises. The Jets have dominated teams and they've escaped by the skin of their teeth. Their defense has been masterful and it has been terrible. They've won because of Sanchez and in spite of him. They've done it at home, on the road, in prime time and against the Bills.
As ugly as Sunday's win was, and it was hideous, that's a pretty good run to be on going into the bye week.