The contest appeared to be headed for the first tie in the NFL since the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals ended in a 13-all deadlock nearly two years ago, but the Jets received the football on the Browns’ 37 after a modest punt return by Jim Leonhard.
On the first play of the series, Sanchez dropped back and found Holmes, who broke free over the middle and raced the remainder of the way down the left sideline for the deciding score.
Sanchez finished 27-of-44 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Jets (7-2), who played back-to-back overtime games for the first time since 2003 and avoided their first tie since 1988.
Holmes ended with 76 yards on five catches and Shonn Greene posted 72 yards on 20 carries for New York, which posted a 23-20 overtime win at Detroit last week.
Colt McCoy wound up throwing for 205 yards and a score on 18-of-31 passing for the Browns (3-6), who haven’t won an OT contest since a 33-30 decision at Baltimore on November 18, 2006.
Peyton Hillis added 82 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for Cleveland, which had won two in a row including a 34-14 drubbing of New England last Sunday.
On the Browns’ first drive of overtime, Chansi Stuckey had the ball ripped away in Jets territory and New York set up on its own 36. Nick Folk then missed a 47-yard attempt wide right with 4:51 left in OT, his third miss of the contest in five attempts.
Cleveland failed to move the ball past midfield, and after a punt, the Jets started from their own nine with 3:06 to go. New York faced a 3rd-and-14 from its own 46 with 1:46 left and Sanchez threw deep for Braylon Edwards, but Joe Haden came down with the ball at the Browns’ three.
The Browns didn’t move the ball on that series, and it proved costly when the Jets won the game on their next offensive play.
Phil Dawson hit a 34-yard field goal to complete Cleveland’s first drive of the contest. His onside kick went out of bounds untouched just after the 10- yard limit, and the Jets took over on the Browns’ 42. Folk capped the drive with a 27-yard field goal.
Hillis fumbled at his own 31 on the Browns’ next drive and New York took over there, but the Jets stalled and Folk’s 48-yard attempt sailed wide right.
The Browns responded with a 61-yard drive ending with Hillis’ 12-yard TD run for a 10-3 game, but the Jets struck back to tie on a 25-yard connection between Sanchez and Jerricho Cotchery inside the four minutes of the second quarter.
Helped by a 37-yard catch-and-run by Josh Cribbs to the Jets’ five, Cleveland took a 13-10 lead on the following drive when Dawson booted a 23-yarder.
New York then moved ahead 17-13 with 23 seconds left in the half when Sanchez capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard plunge.
The Jets took the second-half kick and worked 19 plays over 10-plus minutes, but failed to add to their lead when Nick Folk clanked a 24-yarder off the right upright.
The Browns failed to convert on their two possessions in the quarter.
Folk managed to redeem himself with a 25-yard make to put the Jets ahead by a 20-13 count with 2:42 remaining, ending a 56-yard, 13-play march, but the Browns had a comeback in store.
McCoy found Mohamed Massaquoi for a three-yard scoring strike with 44 seconds to go, and Dawson’s extra point forged a 20-20 deadlock.
New York racked up 456 yards of total offense to 303 for Cleveland…Cotchery finished with 43 yards on three catches…Cleveland had won four of the last five meetings coming in and despite the loss, has taken 12 of the 20 total matchups since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger…The Jets split those 2003 OT games, losing at home to the Giants (November 2) and winning in Oakland (November 9).