Following 74½ minutes of hard-fought football and some questionable play-calling by the Browns, the Jets started the final drive of their Week 10 game at the Cleveland 37 with 24 seconds remaining in overtime. Looking to gain a few more yards to put them in field-goal range, Mark Sanchez found Santonio Holmes seven yards downfield on a quick slant pass between two Cleveland defenders. The receiver did the rest, splitting the two closest Browns, then making a cutback move on a third would-be tackler before leaving everyone else in his tracks, en route to the game-winning touchdown in a 26-20 victory. Holmes' score was the third latest regular-season score by any player since the NFL introduced OT in 1974.
New York's win — its second in a row in overtime on the road, making them the first team in league history to win that way in consecutive weeks — places them at 7-2 (5-0 away from home). The Jets remain in a tie with the Patriots for first in the AFC East (and the AFC, for that matter).
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Holmes was suspended for the team's first four games and it took him a couple of weeks to figure out his role in the Jets' offense. Turns out it was pretty simple: Make big plays. Just as he did with the Steelers for the past four seasons, Holmes has emerged as New York's go-to guy when points are needed, coming through with important yards at the end of the past three Jets victories.
In Week Six against the Broncos, Holmes drew a 46-yard pass interference penalty to give the Jets the ball on the Denver two-yard line with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter. On the next play, LaDainian Tomlinson scored the go-ahead touchdown, and the Jets emerged with a four-point win.
In Week Nine against the Lions, Holmes made a 52-yard catch down the middle of the field in overtime to put the Jets at the Detroit 16. Two plays later, Nick Folk came on to drill the game-winning 30-yard field goal.
Then on Sunday vs. the Browns, Holmes' slant, shake, sprint and score helped New York avoid a dreaded tie. Head coach Rex Ryan said that the end of games have become, "Santonio time" and it was the receiver's dynamic skills that came through when it mattered most yet again.
Holmes has come up at the end of big games before — who can forget his toe-tapping touchdown with 35 seconds remaining to win Super Bowl XLIII for the Steelers over the Cardinals? — but to execute three times in a four-game span is tremendous. The Jets traded a fifth-round pick to Pittsburgh for the receiver, hoping he could team with Sanchez to stretch the field and be the dynamic receiver the team lacked a season ago. So far their partnership has worked, with the two gaining 16.1 yards per hookup. Defenses now have to respect the deep ball, allowing New York's running backs more room to operate and TE Dustin Keller ample room to work the middle of the field.
The game-winning touchdown was not the only big play in the win over the Browns, and Holmes wouldn't have even been in position to end were it not for CB Drew Coleman, who forced a fumble as Cleveland was headed into field-goal range earlier in the extra session, or if the defense hadn't preserved the great field position the team had after a Sanchez pass was picked off at the Browns' three.
But like he has done multiple times in the past month, "Santonio time" showed up just at the right moment.