The Jets and Dolphins gave up 44 points combined in the first two weeks of the season and neither team has a quarterback that's known for putting up monster numbers, so it only stood to reason that Sunday night's game turned into a performance straight out of the good old days when Ken O'Brien and Dan Marino used to blow out lights on scoreboards.
Wait, what? It doesn't make a shred of sense based on preconceived notions and it felt odd watching it play out, but Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne hooked up in an improbable duel on Sunday night. They combined for 619 yards passing, five touchdowns and one interception that wound up providing the Jets with a 31-23 escape that goes into the record books as a victory. Drew Coleman picked off Henne in the end zone with 30 seconds to play to end a last-ditch Dolphins drive that brought them within inches of extending a game that fits right into the long, memorable and stressful history of the series between the two teams.
The stress on Sunday night came from a Jets defense that was ripped apart by a Dolphins offense led by a quarterback who looked nothing short of inept in the first two weeks. Henne picked on Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie all night, finishing with a career-best 363 yards that topped his combined total for the first two games of the season. Darrelle Revis can't get healthy soon enough for a Jets secondary that looked nothing like the one that shut down the much more vaunted attack of the Patriots a week ago.
Also causing a spike in visits to local cardiac centers was the Jets' inability to stop commiting penalties. They were flagged nine times for 81 yards in the kind of performance that made you wonder if they didn't call on Tom Coughlin to do some consulting on discipline this week. Ultimately, though, they benefitted from a flag as Jason Allen was called for pass interference in the end zone on a toss to Braylon Edwards with just over two minutes to play and the Jets clinging to a one-point lead. LaDainian Tomlinson, still looking fresh as a daisy, scored and gave the Jets their final margin of victory.
Edwards and Allen hooked up on another crucial play earlier in the contest. Edwards didn't play at all in the first quarter and didn't get a ball thrown his way in the second quarter, but on the first Jets offensive play of the second half he caught a short pass from Sanchez and turned it into a 67-yard touchdown when Allen slipped on some newly planted sod. Those who are down on Edwards after this week won't have their opinion changed after watching him dance after his score, but the Jets were probably feeling pretty good about their decision to play Edwards days after his DWI arrest.
But they're feeling even better about Sanchez. For the second straight game he looked like the kind of guy you draft sixth overall instead of the scared little kitten of the season opener. He was 15-of-28 for 256 yards and, for the second straight week, three touchdowns. Bigger than any numbers, however, were the four long touchdown drives he led over the course of the night because he consistently made the right decisions and found the right receivers in spots where they could do damage to the defense. If things continue to develop for Sanchez, we'll look back to these two games as the moment when he checked the box next to NFL starter on his resume.
It was still an escape, although you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise based on the way the Jets celebrated on the sideline. Rex Ryan dumped a Gatorade bucket on Jason Taylor's head, a change from the usual to honor Taylor's return to South Florida. A sigh of relief seemed much more appropriate based on the way the game played out, but a divisional road win is always something worth celebrating.
After this week, let's just hope that none of the Jets celebrates it with too much fervor.