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New York Jets running back Joe McKnight (25) dives into the end zone for a touchdown as Houston's DeVier Posey (11) and Troy Nolan (33) chase. It wasn't enough, as the Texans won 23-17. Julio Cortez / Associated Press
Mark Sanchez made some big plays, and even Tim Tebow gave the New York Jets the spark everyone was waiting for.
It still wasn't enough against one of the NFL's best - and still unbeaten - teams.
Arian Foster ran for 152 yards and a touchdown, and the Houston Texans defeated the Jets for the first time in team history, hanging on for a 23-17 victory Monday night.
"We were in it," Sanchez said, "until the end of the game."
With a chance to lead the Jets on a winning drive, Sanchez was intercepted by Kareem Jackson on a pass that tipped off the hands of Jeff Cumberland with 1:51 remaining and the Texans (5-0) joined the Atlanta Falcons as the NFL's only teams without a loss.
"You've got to give yourself a chance to win, and we did that tonight," Sanchez said.
The Jets (2-3) were heavy underdogs after coming off a 34-0 loss to San Francisco last week, but made a game of it when many fans and media expected another blowout.
"It was a lot of courage, a lot of effort that we showed," Tebow said. "It wasn't always perfect and we always didn't execute the way we want to, but you can never question our toughness or our effort or our character."
Sanchez finished 14 of 31 for 230 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions - but was done in by a few tipped passes.
"I think he played better than the numbers indicate," coach Rex Ryan said.
Tebow, whose role has been surprisingly minimal so far, got the crowd fired up at times throughout the game, including running for a first down on a fake punt.
He also threw a deep pass that newly signed Jason Hill should have caught, and later took a direct snap and ran for 13 yards to get the ball near the goal line in the fourth quarter. But other than that, Tebow spent most of his time on the sideline - again.
"You know, going in, I had no idea when I would go in," Tebow said. "I just try to be ready at all times."
If he's frustrated with his role, he's doing his best to hide it.
"Yeah, I'm still excited to be a Jet," he said with a smile, using the word he repeated a few dozen times in his introductory news conference in March. "But do I have to say it like 50 times, though?"
(China Daily 10/10/2012 page22)