Jets vs. Cowboys: Mark Sanchez and New York rally past Tony Romo and Dallas


Side judge Jimmy DeBell has a good view of the Jets’ Plaxico Burress securing a 26-yard touchdown pass in front of Cowboys defensive back Bryan McCann during the second half of New York’s season-opening 27-24 triumph. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)
September 12, 2011

The New York Jets’ latest Super Bowl-or-bust season began in stirring fashion. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress had a touchdown catch as the Jets overcame a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 27-24, here Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.

“It’s just amazing,” Jets Coach Rex Ryan said. “It just doesn’t get much better than this, especially the way we got it done.”

The Jets scored the game’s final 17 points after trailing, 24-10, early in the fourth quarter.

They again are talking unapologetically about their Super Bowl chances after losing the AFC title game in each of Ryan’s first two seasons as their coach. Their great expectations seemed fully justified on this night, as they finally won it on a 50-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk with 27 seconds remaining. Folk’s decisive kick was set up by an interception by cornerback Darrelle Revis.

“We did escape,” Revis said. “We did show heart and toughness and we fought back.”

Burress had four catches for 72 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, in his regular season debut for the Jets after the former Super Bowl standout for the New York Giants served nearly two years in prison on a weapon charge.

“I was just telling myself to be patient,” Burress said. “I didn’t have any catches in the first half but I’ve been in games like this in my career. Being down 14 points in the fourth quarter on opening night and rising to the occasion, it shows a lot about our team.”

The Jets scored on a blocked punt to tie the game at 24. Their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, threw for 335 yards and had a first-half touchdown pass to tight end Dustin Keller. But Sanchez also threw an interception that set up a Cowboys touchdown and lost a fumble.

The Cowboys lost their first season opener with Jason Garrett as their coach. Quarterback Tony Romo threw for 342 yards and had a pair of touchdown passes, one to wide receiver Dez Bryant and the other to wideout Miles Austin. Tailback Felix Jones ran for a touchdown. But Romo had a key fumble and threw the interception to Revis that led to the winning field goal.

“We just let it slip away,” Austin said. “You can’t do that. You have to play better from beginning to end. We have to finish better.”

Revis is regarded as one of the league’s top cornerbacks and rarely is tested by opponents, but he said he wasn’t surprised to see the Cowboys throw the ball in his direction with the game on the line.

“People are going to test me,” Revis said. “They’re going to throw the ball toward me because they’re confident in what they do. When the ball comes to my side, I’m not shocked.”

Jets players carried American flags as they ran on the field during pregame introductions. The night included ceremonies that were both somber and patriotic on the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The crowd chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” before kickoff. Players on both teams joined police officers, firefighters and military members in holding a full-field American flag. Former president George W. Bush tossed the coin.

The Dallas offense was sharp at the outset, as the Cowboys drove for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. Bryant took a short pass from Romo and turned it into a 42-yard gain on the game’s third play. Romo delivered a pass just before being hit for a five-yard completion to wideout Kevin Ogletree on a third-and-four play from New York’s 11-yard line. On third down from the 3, Bryant made a leaping, twisting catch in the end zone.

From there, the game settled into the sort of rugged defensive struggle that could have been expected with Ryan on the Jets’ sideline and his brother Rob running the Dallas defense as the Cowboys’ new coordinator. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware sacked Sanchez on the Jets’ first offensive play, and the New York offense spent most of the first half going nowhere. The Jets punted on each of their first four possessions, and the Cowboys upped their lead to 10-0 on a 34-yard field goal by place kicker Dan Bailey just more than three minutes before halftime.

But Sanchez and the Jets struck just before the intermission to get back into contention. Tailback LaDainian Tomlinson caught a short pass from Sanchez and sprinted along the sideline for a 32-yard gain to the Dallas 4-yard line. Sanchez threw an incompletion on first down but zipped a second-down pass to Keller in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.

The Jets did nothing on the opening drive of the second half and punted, and the Cowboys again moved quickly at the start of a half as Romo teamed with Austin for a 36-yard touchdown. Romo lofted a pass in Austin’s direction as he raced down the right side of the field, with cornerback Antonio Cromartie in one-on-one coverage. Cromartie was well positioned and reached for the ball to make a would-be interception. But Austin also got his hands on the pass, and two officials signaled touchdown as both players fell to the turf and continued wrestling for the ball. Cromartie yelled in frustration and some fans voiced displeasure, but there was no reversal with the instant-replay review that now automatically follows each scoring play.

Folk provided a 34-yard field goal as the Jets answered immediately with a decent drive of their own. The Jets got the ball back and Burress’s first catch drew an enthusiastic ovation. But on the next play, Sanchez threw a pass into heavy traffic in the middle of the field and had it intercepted by linebacker Sean Lee, who weaved his way toward the end zone for what was initially ruled a touchdown. A replay review gave the Cowboys the ball at the 1-yard line instead, and Jones got into the end zone from there on the second play of the fourth quarter.

“We played far from a perfect game,” Rex Ryan said. “Not even close. . . . Man, it was frustrating.”

The Jets didn’t surrender and Burress gathered in Sanchez’s lob to the left corner of the end zone for his touchdown, then celebrated by kneeling and taking a couple modest bows.

The Jets still had comeback hopes after Romo lost a fumble at the New York 3-yard line on a scramble. Sanchez gave the ball back to the Cowboys with a fumble on a sack. But the Cowboys couldn’t move far and the Jets’ Isaiah Trufant grabbed the loose ball and raced for a touchdown after Mat McBriar’s punt was blocked by Joe McKnight.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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