PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge
DETROIT — Mark Sanchez threw a lot of passes high, low, and wide.
When it mattered most, he found his target.
Sanchez connected with Santonio Holmes for 52 yards to set up Nick Folk's 30-yard field goal 2:18 into overtime, lifting the New York Jets to a 23-20 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday.
“He's at his best when he's not thinking and he's just a California boy playing football” Jets receiver Braylon Edwards said.
Sanchez scored on a quarterback sneak with 2:46 left in regulation and led a nine-play drive that set up Folk's 36-yard kick to send the game into OT.
He successfully lobbied Jets coach Rex Ryan to run the two-minute offense in overtime.
“When I started running it, we got them on their heels,” Sanchez said. “It was obvious that we took over the game at the end.”
Knocking Matthew Stafford out of the game certainly helped the Jets take control.
Stafford threw two TD passes and ran for a score to give Detroit a 10-point lead before re-injuring his right shoulder and leaving the game with 5:19 left. Stafford separated his shoulder in the opener and was out until last week.
“You don't want to hurt a guy, but that changed the game,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas, who tackled Stafford from behind and sent him crashing on his right shoulder. “I was just trying to make a play.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz gave Sanchez extra time to run more plays on the game-tying drive when he called a pass on third down and Drew Stanton threw an incompletion, giving the Jets the ball with 1:40 left.
“I didn't make myself clear enough that we shouldn't worry about taking the lost yardage play right there because the clock obviously was important,” Schwartz said.
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge
The Jets were stunned at Schwartz's decision not to run the ball and take time off the clock when they were out of timeouts.
“They gave us about 40 more seconds to work with,” New York offensive tackle Damien Woody said. “That was huge.”
The Jets (6-2) took advantage against the Lions (2-6) and silenced a previously boisterous crowd at Ford Field.
“Obviously we feel fortunate we got the win, but we don't care — we'll take it,” Ryan said. “That's what good teams do, find a way to win.”
In a matchup of first-round quarterbacks from last year's draft, Sanchez came out on top and Stafford couldn't stay on the field. Stafford was the No. 1 pick overall and Sanchez was drafted fifth.
Sanchez was 22 of 39 for a career-high 323 yards with one TD — a 74-yard, go-ahead pass to Edwards with a minute left in the first half — and one interception.
Stafford was 20 of 36 for 240 yards with two TDs, no interceptions, and a rushing score. Calvin Johnson was held to one reception for 13 yards, getting shut down by All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The Lions were at their best and looked like they were going to win a third game this season — to surpass the victories they had the past two years combined — when Stafford lobbed a two-yard TD to Nate Burleson with 11:51 left.
But they couldn't overcome Stafford's injury or Schwartz's questionable call and linebacker Julian Peterson's personal foul on the game-tying drive.
“This is the worst loss ever, I think, in my 10 years,” said Detroit center Dominic Raiola.
New York, which was shut out at home last week by Green Bay, didn't score in the first or third quarters at Detroit.
Sanchez and Jets, though, were explosive enough to score 10 points in the last 2:46 and on the opening drive of OT.
Detroit got off to a good start and led for much of the game, but couldn't make enough winning plays on both sides of the ball to snap New York's seven-game winning streak on the road.
Stafford connected with Brandon Pettigrew for a 10-yard TD on the first drive against a team that had given up three points in the first quarter of its first seven games.
A missed extra point proved to be costly for Detroit.
Rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, filling in for injured kicker Jason Hanson, hit the right upright on an extra point in the third quarter when the Lions led 13-10.
Hanson, whose right knee was evaluated on the sideline, was healthy enough to return to kick an extra point that put Detroit ahead 20-10 in the fourth.
The Jets would've been more aggressive if they needed a TD on the final drive of regulation, but they only needed three points to force the game into overtime against Stanton, who was active because backup QB Shaun Hill is injured.