Jets Defeat Bills 31-27 In Last-Minute Miracle Play
The Jets came into Sunday's game with the Buffalo Bills in a three-way tie with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins for the AFC Eastern Division at 8-5. The Jets needed a win to keep them in the hunt for a playoff berth with only two more games to play in the regular season.
Jets Quarterback Bret Favre, the team's offensive leader, predicted a win over the Bills but it did not come easy. The Jets scored touchdowns in their first two possessions and looked like a sure thing to win their ninth game of the season. But after their second score, their offense fizzled.
The Bills led the game with time running out in the fourth quarter when a miracle happened. All the Bills needed to do was keep the ball on the ground and eat up the clock and the game was theirs. But to everyone's surprise, except for the Bills' coaching staff, Bills quarterback J. Losman attempted a play action pass play to surprise the Jets' defense. After faking a handoff, Losman faded back to pass and was hit from behind by Jets Safety Abram Elam, who sacked Losman, jarring the ball loose. Jets Defensive End Shaun Ellis scooped up the fumble at the 11 and fought his way along the sidelines, diving into the end zone just inside the pillar to give the Jets the lead with 1:54 to go in the game for what turned out to be a come from behind victory. It was Ellis' first and most important touchdown of his career and turned a season-ending loss into an unbelievable playoff hunt victory. "It won the game. I don't know about the season yet," Ellis said after the game.
The kick after touchdown by Jets Kicker Jay Feely was good and the Jets had a 31-27 lead with 1:54 to go in regulation time. The game was not over yet.
Feely kicked off a bomb to the Buffalo one-yard line that was run back to the 26 by Bills kick returner Leodis McKelvin. On the very first play for Buffalo following the Jets fumble recovery touchdown, Jets defender Darelle Revis picked off a Losman pass at the Buffalo 39 and took it to the Buffalo 33 for an interception and a six-yard return. The Jets kept the ball on the ground, trying to run out the clock. Three plays later they had not made a first down and were faced with a fourth and two from the Buffalo 25-yard line. It seemed simple to the Jets fans, 78,548 strong, most of whom remained to the very end of this nail-biter.
Coach Eric Mangini passed up the logical choice of a field goal attempt from the Buffalo 25 that would have put the Jets up by 7 if successful and instead chose to run the ball and Thomas Jones did, for no gain. The Bills now had the ball back with 1:17 to go and with a chance to win the game on a touchdown. However, the Bills had no time outs and did not dare run the ball and use up the clock. Bills quarterback Losman combined short passes to move the ball and spikes to stop the clock.
The Bills were able to move the ball to their 49 when the game's outcome was decided. With 10 seconds on the clock, Losman threw a deep pass down the right sidelines intended for J. R. Reed that was intercepted by Jets Safety Kerry Rhodes at the Jets 12 as time ran out and the Jets were alive in the playoff hunt for yet another Sunday.
The Jets' 31-27 win has been deemed miraculous. Coach Eric Mangini said after the game that he would take a win any way it occurred.
This game was memorable in many ways. A number of Jets' records were broken on Sunday. Lavernius Coles had 7,865 receiving yards coming into the game (78th alltime) and needed 49 yards to tie Jimmy Orr (7,617 receptions, 44th alltime) and 53 yards to tie Jackie Smith (7,918, 76th).
Coles made five catches for 82 yards, passing both men and putting him in sole possession of 76th place, only 34 yards shy of tying Bobby Mitchell for 75th place on the all-time NFL reception list. Coles' five receptions moved him within two receptions to tie Johnny Morton (624, 43rd) and six receptions to tie Rob Moore (627, 42nd). Coles caught five passes for 82.
Second year running back Thomas Jones, who has run for more than 1,000 in both of his seasons with the Jets, broke a number of New York Jets franchise records on Sunday. His one touchdown run helped set new Jets records for touchdowns in a single season, 15, rushing touchdowns in a single season, 13 and 8 straight games with a rushing touchdown. Jones came into the game with 1,144 rushing yards for the season (ninth place all-time in Jets history). He rushed for 78 yards on 20 carries, giving him 1,222 rushing yards for the season and moving him ahead of Curtis Martin (1,204 in 2000) into eighth place all-time. Jones needed only five yards to tie Adrian Murrell (1,249 in 1996) for seventh all-time rushing yards in a single season. Thomas Jones had 7,647 career rushing yards coming into the game and needed 17 yards to tie Ricky Williams (43) at 7,664 and 49 yards to tie Chris Warren (42). Jones rushed for 78 yards, moving him into sole possession of 42nd place in NFL history.
The Jets travel to Seattle for next Sunday's game. If the Jets defeat Seattle and Miami in their last two games, they will win the division. They would win a tie-breaker based on a better divisional record. If the Jets split by losing to Seattle and defeating Miami, they win the division as well. If the Jets defeat the Seattle Seahawks and lose the last game of the season to the Miami Dolphins, the Jets would probably be out of the playoffs because the tie breaker there is based on wins over common opponents.