BY SEAN DONOVAN
The Jets were down 17-13 with 5:34 left in regulation needing a touchdown. The defense had just forced the Dolphins into a three-and-out, and they took over at their own 47-yard line after a punt.
Despite good field position, it would be no easy task to get into the end zone on the Miami defense. Mark Sanchez was baffled by the Dolphins' coverage most of the afternoon, completing just 13 of his 32 passes up to that point. His team had been able to convert only 3-of-12 third downs, as well.
Sanchez immediately went back to work through the air and found the Dolphins in zone coverage. This change in gameplan was possibly an attempt to mix up the looks for Sanchez, but was more likely due to the exhausted Miami defensive players. The Dolphins' offense had failed to gain a first down in each of their previous two drives, and the unit had little time to seek refuge from the humidity.
Jets receivers were now able to find soft spots in zone, and Sanchez delivered the ball decisively to inch closer into scoring position. On a crucial third-and-6 deep in Dolphins territory, Santonio Holmes was able to sit behind Nolan Carroll's coverage and caught a short pass for the conversion.
New York moved efficiently down the field, and Sanchez capped off the drive with a go-ahead 7-yard touchdown throw in the face of an all-out blitz. The Jets were now in the lead, 20-17.
The Dolphins ran an impressive drive of their own to force overtime with a late Dan Carpenter field goal. In the extra period, Carpenter missed an opportunity to win the game on a 48-yard try.
Sanchez would now have another chance to attack a Dolphins defense that was tired and on its heels.
On the second play after taking over possession near his own 40-yard line, Sanchez completed a 38-yard strike down the sidelines to Holmes to put the Jets comfortably in field goal range.
On the play, the Jets lined up in an unbalanced I-formation with Holmes as the split end on the weak side. The Dolphins would line up their zone coverage accordingly, essentially leaving cornerback Richard Marshall isolated on Holmes (bottom of screen). Karlos Dansby and Koa Misi would join the pass rush on a blitz.
Marshall was in press coverage, and engaged Holmes as he released into his route. After intitiating contact, and commiting an illegal contact penalty in the process, Marshall turned back around to look at the quarterback, a clear indication of his zone assignment. He then realized that Holmes would be running free and tried to recover.
By that time, the ball had already been delivered and Holmes ran under it for the long gain.
Sanchez adeptly read a zone blitz and recognized the coverage that Marshall would be playing. Holmes was able to beat Marshall's press, and Sanchez made the throw.
The Jets would eventually convert the game-winning field goal, and they would leave Miami with the early-season AFC East lead.
Follow Sean @seanldonovan
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily