Ryan's defense gave up nearly the entire field to Ben Roethlisberger in the last two minutes, including a conversion on third-and-24, but forced two incompletions in the end zone to close out a comeback road win that answered a lot of questions about a team in turmoil. The Jets do have a little bit of fire left in their bellies; they do have what it takes to win playoff-type games (Ryan told the Steelers he'd see them again and that seems quite possible) and, yes Virginia, there's still an offense at work.
That's why Brian Schottenheimer is going to get to enjoy Christmas week without wondering if he's going to find a headset with its cord clipped under his tree on Saturday morning. It wasn't a perfect game, but Schotty dialed up just enough big plays to get his team the 22-17 victory they needed. Down 17-10 in the third quarter and facing a do-or-die fourth-and-one from the seven, he came up with his biggest one of all.
With all 11 Steelers crowded around the line of scrimmage, Sanchez faked a handoff to Shonn Greene and bootlegged left. The entire Steeler defense bought the fake handoff and Sanchez sprinted around left end for the team's first offensive touchdown since the third quarter of their Thanksgiving night win against the Bengals. Not surprisingly, that was their last victory before Sunday's road win.
Sanchez didn't make many big gainers, but he didn't turn the ball over and made a few nifty plays to keep the clock and ball moving in the Jets' direction. Some of his biggest completions came after avoiding pass rushers, something he was doing when things were working more swimmingly. More than any individual play, however, there was a confidence that grew throughout the game as the Jets realized that the sky was no longer falling around their head.
For that, they can thank Brad Smith. Smith, who scored the last Jets touchdown before Sunday on a kick return, opened the game by taking a kickoff 97 yards for a score. Holding a lead definitely calmed the Jets and it seemed to help them sustain their belief even as the Steelers came back to grab a 17-10 lead on their first drive of the third quarter.
The defense, which spent most of the first three quarters getting pushed around by the Pittsburgh offense, was huge during the comeback. They stopped allowing big chunks of yardage to Rashard Mendenhall on the ground and began to make the kinds of big plays that have been missing for them all season.
Drew Coleman and Bryan Thomas teamed up for a sack of Ben Roethlisberger to sink one Steeler drive and Jason Taylor nailed Mewelde Moore in the end zone for a safety with 2:38 to play. Those plays helped set the stage for the final drive, which looked to be going the Jets' way when Coleman stripped Roethlisberger on another blitz. Big Ben recovered, though, and hit the big third down play to keep things alive.
The defense finally held, though, and the Jets finally tasted another victory. After two weeks that seemed like they'd eliminated the chance of that ever happening again, that taste must have been mighty sweet. Another tough trip to a playoff team awaits in Chicago next week and we'll find out then if the revival will play for another week.