Jets top Browns in OT thriller
CLEVELAND — Santonio Holmes almost felt sorry for Rob Ryan.
The other Ryan wasn’t so sympathetic.
Holmes scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez with 16 seconds left, giving the New York Jets their second straight overtime win, 26-20, over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday — also the AFC East leaders’ eighth straight regular-season road win.
Following a game that had a season’s worth of big plays, hits and drama, Holmes approached Jets coach Rex Ryan and said he felt bad that his TD had beaten Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, Cleveland’s animated defensive coordinator.
“He wanted to apologize to my brother,” Rex said. “I said, ‘Hey, forget all that. Don’t worry about that, buddy, he forgives you.’ ”
It was the second consecutive overtime win for the Jets (7-2), who won, 23-20, in Detroit last week. They overcame three missed field goals by Nick Folk, including a 47-yarder in OT, and were pushed within seconds of a tie by the improving Browns (3-6).
“We can play with anybody and fight with anybody,” said Browns coach Eric Mangini, who played for the win in the closing seconds of OT against the team that fired him two years ago. “We fight and deal with adversity well.”
The Ryan family held an impromptu reunion in the corridor outside Cleveland’s locker room. The Ryan boys were joined by their famous father, Buddy, the longtime coordinator whose “46” defensive scheme has become a coaching staple. There were hugs and smiles.
Rex and Rob spent the week leading up to the game making fun of each other’s diets and wardrobes. They shared a few laughs on the field before kickoff, but once the ball was in the air, they were all brotherly business.
“At 1 o’clock, everybody becomes nameless, faceless objects — whether it is your twin brother or a friend,” Rex Ryan said. “I feel bad for Cleveland. They played their hearts out. I don’t want to do this game over.”
Neither does Braylon Edwards, the Jets’ mouthy wide receiver who made his first trip to Cleveland since being traded. Edwards, booed and taunted by Cleveland fans all day, finished with four catches for 59 yards. After his first grab, he was pummeled by several Browns.
“I just came here to play football,” said a surprisingly contrite Edwards, whose tenure in Cleveland was defined by one Pro Bowl season and a slew of dropped passes. “Some guys tried to take some shots at me after the play, but nothing was dirty.”
The Browns couldn’t quite pull off their third shocking upset in a row. They had beaten New Orleans and New England in consecutive weeks, but were unable to finish the job.
Cleveland rallied to force OT on rookie quarterback Colt McCoy’s 3-yard TD pass to Mohamed Massaquoi with 44 seconds left in regulation. The Browns had a chance in OT, but their drive ended when wide receiver Chansi Stuckey fumbled at New York’s 32.
“It happened at a really crucial time,” said Stuckey, a former Jet. “I let everyone down.”
But the Jets didn’t capitalize on the turnover when Folk’s kick sailed right, whipping the Dawg Pound bleacher section into a froth.
Sanchez threw two TD passes and ran for another. He also shook off what initially looked to be a serious injury to his right leg and finished 27 of 44 for 299 yards. He threw one interception, but it didn’t hurt and actually helped set up New York’s winning score.
Sanchez underthrew a long pass to Edwards that was picked off by rookie cornerback Joe Haden with 1:35 left in OT. The interception was as good as a punt for the Jets since it backed the Browns up to their goal line.
At that point, Mangini could have called three straight running plays and run out most of the clock. But McCoy threw an incompletion on first down and was sacked on third-and-8, forcing Cleveland’s Reggie Hodges to punt from his end zone.
“You have to play to win this game,” said McCoy, who went 18 of 31 for 205 yards in his fourth straight start. “That’s what we’re trying to do, no matter what snap it is or what down it is. That’s a gutsy call down there, for sure, but we tried to go down and score.”
Hodges got off a 53-yard kick that New York’s Jim Leonhard returned 18 yards to Cleveland’s 37.
On first down, Sanchez whipped a quick pass to Holmes, who broke free from cornerback Eric Wright, stepped inside of rookie safety T.J. Ward and sprinted into the end zone. Last week, Holmes, who was suspended from New York’s first four games, had a 52-yard reception in OT to set up Folk’s 30-yard kick that downed the Lions.
Holmes was caught from behind in Detroit. He wasn’t going to let that happen again.
“When the safety came up, I saw he was flat-footed,” Holmes said. “I put my head down. The guys would have been all over my butt all week if I got caught this time.”
Before Holmes’ heroics, the teams appeared headed for the NFL’s first tie since 2008, when Philadelphia and Cincinnati played to a 13-13 draw.
Woodland Hills vs. Mt. Lebanon
Woodland Hills vs. Mt. Lebanon during the WPIAL AAAA quarterfinal game at Baldwin on Friday November 12, 2010.