With their season on the brink of unraveling because of mounting losses and infighting, Rex Ryan and his feuding New York Jets got back on track with a 24-6 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
"Hey, we needed a win in the worst way," a relieved Ryan said. "I'm just happy that we found a way to get one."
The Jets (3-3) came into the game as a team in turmoil, and this victory was far from pretty or convincing. But it didn't need to be. It only needed to not be another loss.
"Anytime you lose three games straight, you're going to lack some confidence," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "You're going to start to question yourself a little bit."
Darrelle Revis ran back the first of his two interceptions 100 yards for a touchdown and the Jets did just enough to avoid their first four-game skid under Ryan. Mark Sanchez threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes and ran for another score as the Jets - who called this a "must-win" game - capped a tough week by sending the Dolphins to their fifth straight loss.
"Losing was tough," Revis said. "It was hard coming to work. We wanted to get this win. We came in with a great game plan and guys stuck together."
There were some serious doubts whether that would be the case, though. With frustration quickly seeping into the locker room, New York traded wide receiver Derrick Mason to Houston for what the team said was a lack of production. Then, the Jets had to deal with some infighting as Holmes called out the offensive line for not giving Sanchez enough time to throw deep. Right guard Brandon Moore fired back, saying those comments could have a "fragmenting effect" and were not what a captain, which Holmes is, should do.
Ryan, who insisted his team's Super Bowl hopes would not be undone by locker room disharmony, even sent Holmes and Moore out as the captains for the pregame coin toss.
"It was good," Holmes said. "We both looked each other in the eye and said, 'Let's go. It's time to play some football."'
Turns out, this game against the Dolphins (0-5) came at just the right time as the Jets got their season back on track. Next up for New York: the San Diego Chargers (4-1) on Sunday, with a chance to head into the bye week on a high note.
"In every locker room, things like this happen," Ryan said. "Trust me, we're past that thing. It's unfortunate that it happened. We're chasing a much bigger thing than that. We're moving forward."
Sanchez finished 14 of 25 for 201 yards and the touchdown pass to Holmes, and Shonn Greene ran for 74 yards on 21 carries.
"To think that guys were upset or had it out for each other, that's crazy," Sanchez said. "Not here, not with Rex. I knew it was something that would pass, something we'd laugh off. Just getting a win changes everything."
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are 0-5 to start a season for the second time in five years, and things are looking an awful lot like 2007 - when Miami went 1-15. The heat on Dolphins coach Tony Sparano could intensify now, with some already calling for his job before this game.
"It's tough right now," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. "When you lose, everything looks bad. It's a nasty feeling in the building and a nasty feeling every day. The only thing we can do is fight to get a win."
Marshall couldn't even live up to his promise late last week that he would get ejected sometime in the second quarter. He also said he might even start a fight with Jets linebacker Bart Scott or cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
It was all talk.
But that's what many fans and media were wondering of the struggling Jets. And, they did little to convince them otherwise while the Dolphins got on the scoreboard first on Dan Carpenter's 23-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter.
The night appeared to be taking an awful turn for the Jets when they lost the ensuing kickoff when it bounced off blocker Garrett McIntyre - standing in front of returner Joe McKnight - and was recovered by Austin Spitler.
After two runs by Thomas for 3 yards, Moore threw at Marshall in the end zone, but Revis stepped in front of the pass and returned it untouched 100 yards to make it 7-3.
"That's exactly what we needed on defense, to set the tone early," Cromartie said.
The return tied for the longest in franchise history, first set by Aaron Glenn in 1996, also against Miami. It was also the longest interception runback in the league this season.
Matt Moore, starting for the injured Chad Henne, was 16 of 34 for 204 yards and two interceptions.
"It's rough, kind of the same old story, trying to find answers and make plays down there in the red zone and we seem to hit a wall," Moore said. "Just got to keep going."
Marshall had six catches for 109 yards, but was kept out of the end zone. Reggie Bush, who left in the third quarter with his right arm hanging at his side - it was announced as a neck injury - had 71 yards rushing and two catches for 7 yards.
Carpenter's 21-yard field goal early in the second quarter made it 7-6, capping a nine-play, 77-yard drive.
The Jets opened with four straight three-and-outs for the second consecutive game before getting things going late in the first half. On third-and-9 from the Jets 20, Jeremy Kerley caught a 14-yard pass for New York's initial first down of the game, with 6:17 left in the half.
Then, the offense started clicking with a few long drives. Holmes' 38-yard grab early in the fourth quarter sealed it for the Jets after Sanchez bought some time with his feet and found the receiver, who easily outran linebacker Cameron Wake and made a few nice moves on his way into the end zone to put New York up 24-6.
"What happened last week was last week," Holmes said. "We're looking forward and ahead."
Notes: Cromartie said he pulled himself out of the game late with a groin strain, but will definitely be able to play against the Chargers. ... The Jets finished 6 of 15 on third down, while the Dolphins were just 2 of 13. ... The Jets sacked Moore four times, including two by LB Calvin Pace.