By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The penalties are piling up, and so are the wins.
Rex Ryan’s Jets are sloppy, lucky and at the top of the AFC East again — a flawed bunch that also happens to be tied for the best record in the league.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said Monday. “The best is yet to come.”
Good thing, too, since the Jets have been anything but at their best the past few weeks. They trailed the Detroit Lions by 10 with under 3 minutes left Sunday and were facing a second straight loss out of the bye with another frustrating performance.
They were called for 11 penalties in the 23-20 overtime victory, fumbled five times — losing one — and needed a few breaks to pull this one off.
“We found a way,” Ryan said, “and that’s what great teams do.”
The Jets are a long way from being great, but the fact is that despite the flaws, they are tied with the Patriots for the division lead at 6-2, and hold the tiebreaker since they beat them earlier this season.
“The teams that can close out games are the ones that generally win,” Ryan said, “whether you have the ball in your hand trying to go for the winning score or you’ve got to stop somebody.”
Twice this season, the ball has been in Mark Sanchez’s hands and he has delivered fourth-quarter comebacks after having none last season as a rookie.
“You see that confidence,” Ryan said. “The players have extreme confidence in him now and it’s great to watch.”
Sanchez drove the Jets 56 yards before scoring on a 1-yard run with 2:46 to play to make it 20-17.
“I think our confidence in Mark Sanchez to do something like that is equally as strong as his confidence in the defense when we need to,” defensive lineman Sione Pouha said.
New York then got lucky when Lions backup quarterback Drew Stanton threw an incomplete pass on third-and-6 and gave the Jets the ball back with 1:40 left. That was plenty of time for Sanchez to get the offense down the field again, running the two-minute offense and setting up Nick Folk’s tying 36-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.
“It’s a big step up from last year,” tight end Dustin Keller said of Sanchez.
Seeing the success he had in the hurry-up offense, Sanchez begged Ryan to let him keep going with it in overtime.
“I’m like, ‘Heck yeah, kid. Go for it. If that’s what you want, you go ahead’,” Ryan recalled.
Sanchez certainly did as the Jets won the toss and never gave the Lions a chance. The young quarterback found Santonio Holmes streaking down the middle of the field for a 52-yard gain before Folk nailed a 30-yard field goal to send the lucky Jets home with a win.
“I wouldn’t say we got away with one,” center Nick Mangold said. “The way we were playing at the beginning of the game, we weren’t lighting up the scoreboard and couldn’t seem to get things going. It kind of put us in a position that was a little difficult.”
Similar to one week earlier, when the Jets couldn’t get anything going on offense in a 9-0 loss at home to Green Bay. This time, the deficit was 10 points with little time to work with — but they came through with a win.
“Guys didn’t get discouraged,” Mangold said. “Some teams they might say, ‘Hey, let’s chalk this one up and let’s move on.’ But our guys kept fighting.”
New York was also largely outplayed at Denver three weeks ago, but rallied to win by scoring with just over a minute left.
“You can tell there’s a difference this year,” Revis said. “It’s just us pushing and not giving up as a team.”
That’s despite all the troubles the Jets are working through right now.
“We have to address the penalty issue,” Ryan said. “We’re up for suggestions, but it’s more about being disciplined, being able to focus.”
The Jets rank 27th in the league in penalties, something Ryan called “a joke.”
“We did the physical things much better this week than we did last week,” Ryan said, “but now it’s like, ‘Guys, think how good we could be when we eliminate those.’ We owe it to each other.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.