There must be something to this late-game magic the New York Jets claim they possess.
Down 30-7 after three quarters, the Jets staged yet another incredible rally and stunned the Miami Dolphins 40-37 in overtime Monday night in a showdown for first place in the AFC East. A team that couldn’t do anything right for nearly 45 minutes was unstoppable in the final quarter.
It was the third time the Jets (6-1) have rallied to win in the fourth quarter of what has become a charmed season.
They tied the game on Vinny Testaverde’s fifth touchdown pass of the night, a 3-yarder to tackle Jumbo Elliott, who was eligible on the play, with 42 seconds to go.
Early in overtime, Marcus Coleman of the Jets intercepted a pass, then fumbled on his return and the Dolphins (5-2) recovered. But Coleman got another pick five plays later.
Wayne Chrebet turned a short pass into a 28-yard completion on third down, setting up John Hall’s 40-yard field goal to cap the almost unfathomable victory.
It’s Happened Before
It was the second time in the NFL’s prime time spotlight that the Jets won so improbably — they beat New England in Game 2 almost the same way. But that game ended far earlier than this one, which stretched until 1:20 a.m. EDT.
The Jets rallied with a precision they totally lacked for the first three quarters — and against a defense that had yielded just 51 points and three TDs the entire season.
“I thought New England was a great comeback, but this was incredible,” Chrebet said. “We took it upon ourselves and made the plays when we had to. It was gutcheck at halftime and we decided to go out swinging.”
They scored a knockout of Miami’s brilliant defense, which crumbled in the fourth quarter. That unit allowed 30 points in the fourth quarter, when the Jets had 20 first downs; Miami one.
It was the first time since 1981, when Atlanta did it, that a team scored 30 points or more in a fourth period.
Vinny: 5 TDs, 3 INTs
Testaverde hit Laveranues Coles for a 30-yard score, the rookie’s first NFL touchdown; found rookie Jermaine Wiggins for a 1-yard TD, his first pro score; hit Chrebet for 24 yards to tie it at 30 with 3:55 to go; then connected with the 300-pound Elliott to tie it at 37.
Testaverde finished 36-of-59 for 378 yards, five TDs and three interceptions.
Jay Fiedler, looking early in the game much like the legend he replaced, connected with Leslie Shepherd for a 46-yard TD one play after Chrebet’s touchdown. That score was set up by Brock Marion’s 47-yard kickoff return.
Dan Marino often beat the Jets with his arm, and Fiedler appeared to have done it, too. He also had a 42-yard TD throw to Shepherd in the first half and ran an efficient offense for three quarters.
But the Jets displayed the fortitude and resilience that has marked their season by staging yet another comeback.
Lamar Smith paced a surprisingly crisp Miami attack that gained 299 yards in the first half alone.
Smith scored on runs of 68 and 3 yards and finished with 155 yards. Oronde Gadsden caught seven passes for 119 yards.
The Dolphins thoroughly befuddled New York on both sides of the ball for most of the game. And as hot as the Jets were later, the Dolphins were at the outset. They led 17-0 and gained 207 yards in the opening 15 minutes — the most by any NFL team in the opening period this season.
It took the Jets until 8:04 elapsed in the second quarter to register a first down. By the end of the long night, however, they had become unstoppable.
Olindo Mare kicked three field goals for Miami, while Hall had two for New York.