A handful of his throws landed nowhere near their intended targets, and he escaped what appeared a sure turnover in the second half when cornerback DeAngelo Hall dropped a pass that was behind wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
As a team, the Jets allowed Washington to look competent on offense early and a special teams gaffe essentially gift-wrapped three points for the Redskins in the final seconds of the first half at FedEx Field.
Yet as they have in many fourth quarters before, the Jets pulled themselves together. They got a 30-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to wide receiver Santonio Holmes for the go-ahead points and added two more touchdowns for a 34-19 triumph. That closing kick enabled to the Jets to rally for their second win in a row and move to 7-5, tied with three other teams pursuing an AFC wild-card berth.
“Sometimes you don’t like it to come down to that,” Coach Rex Ryan said. “But it also tells you about the character of this football team. We believe in each other, and everybody holds onto that rope tight, and we find a way to get it done.”
New York trailed 16-13 after Washington’s Graham Gano connected on a 46-yard field goal with 7 minutes 52 seconds to play, but his short kickoff and Josh Baker’s 29-yard return set up the Jets at their 49. Two plays later, Sanchez, under heavy pressure, flipped a pass to running back Shonn Greene, who picked up 10 yards on third and four to extend the drive.
Greene ran for five yards on first down from the Redskins 35, and on the next snap, Sanchez delivered his most important throw of the game right into the hands of Holmes on a corner fade with 4:49 to play. It was the final pass for Sanchez, who gave Holmes time to complete a double move on cornerback Josh Wilson and provide a 20-16 lead.
Wilson “jumped all over the first part of the route, and the rest was history,” said Holmes, who caught the decisive touchdown with just over a minute to play in the 28-24 comeback win against Buffalo last week. “Mark put the ball in a great place for me to catch it, and that’s the ballgame.”
New York’s defense forced a turnover on the Redskins’ next possession when linebacker Aaron Maybin sacked quarterback Rex Grossman, forcing him to fumble. Linebacker Calvin Pace collected the loose ball, and the Jets had first and goal at the 9-yard line.
Greene took a direct snap in the Wildcat formation on second down, and his nine-yard run up the middle made it 27-16 with 3:42 to play. Gano’s 43-yard field goal drew Washington to 27-19, but the Jets recovered the onside kick, and Greene scored on a 25-yard run for the final points.
“We know where we’re going,” Ryan said when asked if this win elevated his team’s confidence.
“More confident than 100 percent? I don’t know about that.”