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Jets grades: Week 15

Three times this season, the Jets have made furious late0game comebacks to escape with wins over Detroit, Cleveland and Houston. On Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, it was a twist on that tale with the defense denying a last0second Steelers attempt into the end zone to seal a 22-17 win.<br />

Three times this season, the Jets have made furious late-game comebacks to escape with wins over Detroit, Cleveland and Houston. On Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, it was a twist on that tale with the defense denying a last-second Steelers' attempt into the end zone to seal a 22-17 win.

A look at the player grades:

Quarterback: After three weeks of struggles including four interceptions over the past two games, Mark Sanchez stepped up and delivered a performance reminiscent of his late-season heroics last year. The Jets quarterback limited mistakes, made smart throws and didn’t have a single interception. He did all this while managing the game and the clock very well. It wasn’t a standout performance but a solid, confidence-inspiring 60 minutes on the road … and Sanchez perfectly executed the bootleg in third quarter for the offense’s first score in 11 full quarters. Grade B+

Running Backs: The Jets churned out an impressive 106 yards on the ground, the highest tally against Pittsburgh this season. The Steelers rush defense is tops in the league, conceding less than 65 yards per game, and yet the Jets managed to be effective and get positive yards to extend drives. Most importantly, the effective ground game kept the offense balanced, with the Jets running the ball 27 times opposed to 29 throws, a far better balance then previous games when Sanchez tossed the ball 44 times. Grade: B-

Offensive Line: The Jets conceded just one sack on Sunday, but during his Monday press conference head coach Rex Ryan couldn’t remember it. A line that had come under criticism by the media and even by Ryan performed well against as good of a front seven as there is in the league. They opened holes for the ground game and protected Mark Sanchez. In his first NFL start, backup Wayne Hunter was solid in his blocking and gave Sanchez plenty of time to deliver the ball. Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/Tight End: It was a terrific game for Braylon Edwards, who topped 100 receiving yards the hard way, consistently going over the middle and doing the dirty work. Santonio Holmes had six receptions for 40 yards in his Pittsburgh homecoming and they were important grabs in keeping the offense on the field and the ball out of the Steelers hands. The downfield blocking, by Edwards in particular, was solid. Tight end Dustin Keller was quiet once again, with just three catches for 19 yards. Grade: B

Defensive Line: Where’s the pressure? Consistently, the Jets front three got pushed off the line by the Steelers, opening gaps for Rashard Mendenhall’s 100 yard rushing effort on the day. The Jets were once again led by Sione Pouha, who was the only player to consistently get pressure and create problems for the Steelers. Shaun Ellis was once again invisible for the Jets. The Jets missed the pass rushing ability of veteran Trevor Pryce, who was out injured. Grade: C-

Linebackers: Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and David Harris were all solid on the afternoon, limiting the Steelers tight ends and running backs in passing situations but often forced to pursue the ground game due to an inefficient front line. The Jets linebackers bent several times but rarely broke against a machine-like Pittsburgh offense. Calvin Pace is quietly putting together a solid season after injury forced him out of the first few games. Grade: B

Secondary: It is easy to highly rate the efforts of the cornerbacks and safeties as Drew Coleman, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie lead the team in tackles, but that fails to consider the fact that the Steelers had a great game passing the ball. All told, the Steelers wide receivers and tight ends had 22 receptions for 264 yards. The Jets secondary made their tackles but allowed way too much pad against the Steelers receivers, giving them space to operate. It was not a great game in stopping the ball through the air for the unit. Grade: C

Special Teams: A fantastic afternoon as the Jets used some mustard from the special teams to get the win. Brad Smith’s 97-yard return on the game’s opening kickoff was a much needed jumpstart, earning calls from Ryan for Smith to get a Pro Bowl nod. And after weeks of criticism, Nick Folk’s two field goals now give him five in a row, not a bad stretch for a kicker many fans wanted run out of town this time two weeks ago. Given the 13 points that the special teams unit scored, it would be easy to forget the fact that Steve Weatherford placed two punts inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter to help turn the game for the Jets. One punt led to a safety on the next play and the final punt pushed Pittsburgh deep for their final drive, a drive which fell short. Grade: A

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