EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Call the second game of the New York Jets’ reality season “Hard to Believe.”
Because just when it looked as though a bad week on and off the field would taint the Jets’ season, along came Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
But, looking more like Brady than even the record-breaking quarterback himself, Mark Sanchez threw a career-high three touchdown passes as the Jets overcame the loss of Darrelle Revis to beat their AFC East rivals 28-14 on Sunday.
“We’re back,” Ryan said, “to being who we think we are.”
Six days after an awful outing in a season-opening loss to Baltimore last Monday night, Sanchez looked in charge of a suddenly charged-up offense.
“It’s just tough when you lose that first game,” Sanchez said. “It feels like you’re 0-10. This game couldn’t come soon enough.”
The second-year quarterback completed a career-high 21 passes on 30 attempts for 220 yards and connected with Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller for scores.
“We did a lot of talking,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of the team that starred in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this summer. “But at some point, you’ve got to prove it. That’s what it was about today.”
The victory over the Patriots (1-1) ended a tumultuous week for the Jets (1-1), who were investigated by the NFL for the treatment of a female reporter at practice last weekend. Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that the Jets’ conduct was unprofessional but there was no sexual harassment, and owner Woody Johnson apologized to TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz.
If the Jets were distracted, they certainly didn’t show it in this one.
“This was a huge game for us,” Ryan said.
They may have some more concerns now, however. Revis, New York’s All-Pro cornerback, left in the second quarter after Randy Moss made a jaw-dropping, one-handed 34-yard touchdown catch. Revis immediately grabbed his left leg, his hamstring tightening on him after being limited by it all week. He said it wasn’t a pull or a tear, but wasn’t sure how long he might be sidelined.
Cotchery caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez with 38 seconds left in the third quarter, and Edwards caught the 2-point conversion toss to give the Jets their first lead of the game at 21-14.
Tomlinson had a pretty 31-yard run, showing plenty of zip, to put the Jets at the Patriots 4 and set up the score.
Helped by two pass interference calls on Darius Butler, the Jets took a 28-14 lead on Keller’s 1-yard catch with 6:09 remaining.
With Brady trying to muster a comeback against his rivals, Jason Taylor sacked him and knocked the ball out of his hands with just over 4 minutes left and Bryan Thomas recovered.
“We couldn’t do anything in the second half,” Brady said. “We had a hard time gaining yards. We didn’t do anything on third down, we couldn’t gain anything on first or second down. We couldn’t run it. We couldn’t throw it.
“We just (stunk). That’s what it comes down to.”
The Jets then ran the ball out to seal the victory.
Brady finished 20 for 36 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It’s going to be a long week, I can promise you that,” Brady said. “We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas.”
Moss, who took exception to Revis calling him a “slouch” in January, made an incredible catch in front of the cornerback to become the fourth NFL player to reach 150 career touchdowns.
After a 46-yard completion to Aaron Hernandez on third-and-10, Brady found Moss, who reached up and snagged the pass over his shoulder with his right hand. The touchdown — with Revis trailing behind him — made it 14-7 with 53 seconds left in the half.
“Some things you just can’t answer,” Moss said. “It just seemed like we fell apart in the second half.”
The Jets had tied it at 7 on a 10-yard touchdown catch by Edwards, who leaped above Butler on a fade route into the end zone and held onto the ball as the two dropped to the turf.
Edwards was called for taunting after he danced in front of Butler, but the Jets were just happy to get into the end zone. Nick Folk kicked a 49-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to make it 14-10.
After Antonio Cromartie picked off Brady’s long pass to Moss at the 3-yard line, Sanchez led a solid 10-play scoring drive that was capped by Folk’s 36-yard field goal that made it 14-13 with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter.
Wes Welker, who caught 15 passes in the Patriots’ last game against the Jets, had a 6-yard touchdown catch to give New England a 7-0 lead 1:43 into the second quarter. The score capped a 15-play drive that could’ve been stopped a lot earlier if not for a foolish unnecessary roughness penalty by Eric Smith.
“The Jets handled adversity the right way and we handled it the wrong way.” Moss said. “This one hurts. We had a lot of expectations coming into this game.”
NOTES: Welker finished with six catches for 38 yards, while Moss was held to two catches. … Keller had seven catches for a career-high 115 yards. … The Patriots finished with only 52 yards rushing. … Taylor injured his left arm on the sack of Brady, and wasn’t sure how serious it was.