Jason Taylor had sprinted around end and drove his 250 pounds into the back of Tom Brady. The ball popped out of the New England quarterback's hands for a moment, just long enough for Bryan Thomas to pick it up and rumble 16 yards as.
Two hundred and forty six seconds later another war cry rolled from the top to the ground of the $1.7 billion dollar football palace, signifying the first celebration in the new digs.
After six days of answering questions about a decidedly not-ready-for-prime-time showing, the Jets responded to their critics by soundly beating the Patriots 28-14 Sunday afternoon at the Meadowlands. The Jets improved to 1-1 on the season, and Jets will play the 2-0 Dolphins in Miami next Sunday night. New England fell to 1-1.
"I'll say this: It's much nicer coming here after a win than it was last week," said Rex Ryan as hundreds of Jets fans surrounding the press conference room roared their approval. "This (was) a huge game for us."
No kidding. New England had opened the season by torching the Bengals, 38-24, while the Jets were thoroughly unimpressive in a 10-9 Monday Night home loss to the Ravens. A loss today, coupled with Miami's hang-on-for-dear-life 14-10 win in Minnesota, and the Jets would have been 0-2. While it is not impossible to win the division and Super Bowl after a 0-2 start—the 1995 Cowboys started 0-2 before winning the NFC East and Super Bowl, for example—the task would have been decidedly more difficult.
Against an opponent that possesses the ability to score often, it was imperative that Mark Sanchez stretch the field and put up points against a not-quite-up-to-Bill Belichick-standards defense. One week after posting a 9% conversion rate on third downs, the Jets had a solid 46% rating in that category.
Sanchez was more than equal to the task, as he completed 21-of-30 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He scrambled four times for two yards, and was sacked three times. Most importantly, in his 20th NFL start, Sanchez showed the poise that prompted the Jets to select him with the fifth pick in the 2009 Draft.
Sanchez shredded the Patriots pass defense, completing passes to five different receivers. Dustin Keller had seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. Braylon Edwards, who was a non-factor against the Ravens, caught five balls for 45 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Jerricho Cotchery added four grabs for 26 yards and a touchdown. It was his two-yard TD hookup and the subsequent Sanchez-to-Edwards two-point conversion with 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter that was the game-deciding score.
One might even say that for Sanchez, it was a very Tom Brady-like performance.
Sanchez's one-yard connection with Keller with 6:09 left in the fourth pushed the Jets' advantage to 28-14.
Most importantly, Sanchez did not view the game as any sort of defining statement as it pertained to how he compared to Brady.
"I respect Tom quite a bit. I think he is a phenomenal player. But it has nothing to do with…I'm playing against the New England Patriots defense, not Tom Brady. I don't think about him when we're playing them," Sanchez said. "I just know he's a great player and that's it. I'll watch the highlights and see how well he does."
Brady completed 20-of-36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. However the Jets' consistent pressure caused got to the two-time Super Bowl MVP and 2007 NFL MVP to rush throws, especially in the second half. He was limited to seven-of-16 passing for 69 yards and two interceptions in the final two quarters.
Still, the Pats were not impressed with the Jets defense. In fact, they seemed to shrug it off.
"They didn't do anything to hurt (us)," rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "Any loss is hard to digest because we are all winners."
"They didn't do much different (defensively) in the second half. They just executed and made plays," analyzed Wes Welker.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Green, Cotchery and Sanchez combined to pound the Pats for 136 yards and 32 carries. Tomlinson gashed New England for 76 yards on 11 carries, prompting Ryan to sarcastically suggest, "I thought he was washed up. The guy, he only averaged about seven yards a carry. Maybe we ought to give it to him more. He had 76 yards on 11 carries. Really an unbelievable day by LT. You just see that spirit and that's how he shows up to practice. And we all see it on the practice field. That's amazing."
Nick Folk added field goals 49 and 36 yards.
You can follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman