LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — With the New York Jets trying to close out another too-close-for-comfort fourth-quarter comeback, coach Rex Ryan walked up to the player known as “Mayhem.”
“Fourth-quarter sacks win games,” Ryan said.
Linebacker Aaron Maybin then took his spot on the field and did one better. He not only sacked Rex Grossman, but also dislodged the ball from the Washington Redskins quarterback. The Jets recovered, setting up the first of two insurance touchdown runs by Shonn Greene that closed out Sunday’s 34-19 win.
“Fourth-quarter fumbles,” Ryan said, “are even better. … I think we need to get some jerseys out there with ‘Mayhem’ on their back.”
The Jets needed big plays in the waning minutes because, for the second straight game, their first three quarters were so-so. Yet, when the game was on the line, Mark Sanchez was able to lead his 10th career fourth-quarter or overtime comeback victory — and his second in two weeks — highlighted by his 30-yard pass to Santonio Holmes for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:49 to play.
The victory kept New York (7-5) in the realistic hunt for an AFC playoff berth. The Jets scraped by the Buffalo Bills in similar fashion last Sunday, the first step in the team’s stated mission to win out and make the postseason for a third straight year.
“It tells us we have to get better,” Ryan said. “Sometimes, you don’t like it to come down to that.”
The Jets had only 168 total yards after three quarters, committed untimely penalties and had another special teams turnover against the Redskins (4-8), who have lost seven of eight and are expected to lose two starters — tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams — for the remainder of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Sanchez completed 19 of 32 passes for only 165 yards, but avoided throwing an interception after having at least one in five straight games. He also didn’t get sacked for the second straight week.
Greene ran for three touchdowns and finished with 88 yards on 22 carries. He again carried the load despite the return of LaDainian Tomlinson, who had missed the two previous games with an ailing left knee. Tomlinson appeared to reinjure the knee in the first quarter but later came back into the game.
“It was rough the first half,” Greene said. “But we just kept together and kept plugging away.”
Grossman completed 19 of 46 passes for 221 yards and one interception, and the sack-and-fumble by Maybin deep in Washington territory with the score 20-16 thwarted the Redskins’ chance for a fourth-quarter comeback. Calvin Pace recovered, and Greene took a direct snap and scored on a 9-yard run two plays later to give the Jets an 11-point lead.
“That was just one of those situations where we knew as a defense it was crunch time,” said Maybin, who has six sacks on the season and wore a black T-shirt that read, “Duh, winning” in the locker room. “We’ve been in those situations.”
Graham Gano’s fourth field goal, a 43-yarder with 1:59 to play, pulled the Redskins within eight. Washington then failed to recover an onside kick, and Greene scooted in from 25 yards with 1:47 remaining.
The Jets trailed 16-13 after Gano’s 46-yard field goal with 7:52 to go, but a mis-hit kickoff was returned by Josh Baker near midfield. Sanchez and the New York offense then came back to life, with the quarterback scrambling to avoid pressure before completing a 10-yard pass to Greene on a third-and-4 two plays before the big throw to Holmes down the left sideline.
A tough Redskins season took another blow with the news about Davis and Williams. A person with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made, told The Associated Press that the players are expected to be suspended by the NFL for four games.
Davis had one of his best games of the season, catching six passes for 99 yards.
The Redskins didn’t comment on the suspensions, so most of the public thoughts expressed after the game concerned an offense that produced a touchdown on the game’s opening drive — then didn’t find the end zone again. The score came on a 2-yard run by rookie Roy Helu, who rushed for 100 yards for the second straight week.
“The first half was all right,” said Grossman, who needed a shot for his sore left shoulder before the game. “The second half, it was always something. … It’s just frustrating. I don’t really have an answer for you.”
The Jets responded with a real clock-eater: 17 plays, 74 yards over 9:06, including three wildcat plays and a fourth-and-1 conversion.
After the teams traded field goals, rookie Jeremy Kerley muffed a punt deep in New York territory and the Redskins recovered — the NFL-high sixth special teams turnover committed by the Jets this season. It set up another field goal by Gano to give Washington a 13-10 lead at the half.
But it was another late surge that left Ryan confident that the Jets are playoff-bound.
“We know where we think we’re going,” he said. “More confident than 100 percent.”
Notes: Jim Leonhard, replacing Kerley as the return man after Kerley’s fumble, ran back a punt 14 yards in the third quarter to set up a field goal. … Other injuries: Redskins S D.J. Gomes (right knee) and Jets KR Joe McKnight (hyperextended elbow).
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.