FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mistakes, blown plays and missed opportunities.
It all still added up to a victory for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
“When we go back and look at it,” Ryan said Tuesday, “we found a way to win.”
As imperfect as these Jets have been through five games, they’re still tied for the NFL lead with four wins and impressing their opponents on a weekly basis.
“We played what I think is the best team in the AFC in their place,” Minnesota’s Brett Favre said after New York won 29-20 on Monday night. “They have a great defense and are playing great all around.”
Well, not quite, but the fact the Jets are winning without having everything clicking is a promising sign.
The defense got Calvin Pace in the lineup for the first time this season, and Darrelle Revis returned after missing two games. The offense also received a boost from wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who was suspended the first four games.
“We get our guys healthy and we’re humming and playing with our confidence that we know we can play with,” Ryan said, “this team is going to be right there.”
In many ways, the Jets already are. On a night when Mark Sanchez and the offense were subpar, the defense stepped up in a big way, sealing a win — something it struggled to do last season.
“I couldn’t tell them how we were going to win the game, but I just thought we’d win,” Ryan said. “That’s the beauty of where this football team is right now.”
The Jets seemed to be in Vikings territory all night, but the offense stalled and had to settle for five field goals by Nick Folk — accounting for most of New York’s scoring.
“We got away with one there,” Sanchez said. “None of those things can take away from the feeling we feel right now.”
Sanchez threw for 191 yards and finished with a 59.9 rating, his lowest since a 56.4 mark in his miserable season-opening performance against Baltimore. Still, Sanchez didn’t turn the ball over, and has no interceptions through five games. After throwing 20 picks last season as a rookie, Sanchez is the only starting quarterback with at least 100 attempts without an interception.
“Sometimes last year, it felt like I was giving it away like it was my job,” Sanchez said. “It was just poor decision-making. Now, I trust the backs to get out, I’m hanging in the protection and giving our guys chances and they’re really coming up with big plays.”
Against a stingy run defense, the Jets were able to get the job done on the ground with 155 yards rushing. LaDainian Tomlinson had another solid performance, gaining 94 yards on 20 carries, and Shonn Greene added 57 on just 10 attempts and had his first touchdown of the season.
“It speaks volumes of the type of team we have,” Ryan said. “There’s going to be some times that Mark is the guy, sometimes it’s going to be Shonn Greene and sometimes it’s going to be L.T.”
The Jets might have been able to put the game away moments earlier when they had some clock management issues before the 2-minute warning. Ryan took responsibility, saying he should’ve told Sanchez to run the play clock down to 1 second. Instead, on second-and-11, Sanchez took the snap at 2:08, threw an incomplete pass and the clock stopped 4 seconds later. After another incomplete pass, the Jets were forced to punt — and gave Favre a chance to score with 1:48 left.
“I’m normally the most conservative guy,” Ryan said. “Like, let’s just run it, let’s just keep pounding it, pound it. We’ll run the clock down like that. But, our offense was rolling pretty good, and I had a lot of confidence in our passing game, as well. We thought we could make a play, it’s just we mishandled it.”
While Favre nearly led the Vikings back on one of his classic comebacks in the second half, the defense clamped down at the end and sealed the win with Dwight Lowery’s interception return for a touchdown.
“It was getting scary out there, man,” linebacker Bart Scott said.
In the end, the Jets didn’t panic and came out of it as one of the NFL’s four 4-1 teams.
“We’ll take it,” Ryan said. “That’s a big win against a good football team. And now, we’re moving on, getting ready to face Denver.”