The back pages of the New York dailies were absolutely giddy with excitement last Friday after the Jets finally defeated their arch-rivals, the New England Patriots, 34-31 in overtime to take sole possession of first place.
The glee was completely misplaced, as Gang Green resembled their losing old selves more than they did winners. Had the Jets lost this game, not only would the season have gone down in flames but the franchise would have been destroyed for years to come, just as Dan Marino’s fake spike in 1994 sent the Jets into a tailspin for years until head coach Bill Parcells came on board.
The Jets went up to Foxborough well aware the Patriots were without four NFL pro bowlers: Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas, Laurence Maroney, and, of course, golden boy quarterback Tom Brady, who were all injured. Pessimistic Jets fans wondered aloud, “If we can’t beat the Pats now, when will we ever beat them?”
Their fears appeared to be happily extinguished in the first half as the team quickly built a 24-6 lead. But the nail-biting began in earnest in the second half, as the Jets were held scoreless, thanks in large part to team offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, whose play-calling was more conservative than Sarah Palin’s politics. As the Jets sat on their lead, the Pats came storming back.
The final three minutes of regulation were a chilling reminder of the Jets’ historic ineptitude. They merely needed a first down to salt the game away. To no one’s surprise, Schottenheimer ordered Brett Favre to hand the ball off to running back Thomas Jones, who plowed straight ahead three times into the Pats’ waiting arms. So the Jets had to punt. After that their game resembled that of the Keystone Kops more than NFL professionals.
In overtime, however, Favre reminded us of why he is, well, Brett Favre, shaking off adversity to lead a winning drive. Chad Pennington never would have done that.
If you already miss Shea Stadium, here are two worthy souvenirs. Triumph Books has just released “So Long, Shea,” which has wonderful photos of everything from the Beatles concerts there to the day Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver took a slow walk to centerfield to symbolically close the ballpark. And A&E Home Video has just released “New York Mets Essential Games of Shea Stadium,” a DVD set that clocks in at over 16 hours.
The ever-losing New York Islanders are starting a new pregame show on MSG Plus that will be cohosted by Bayside native and Mets announcer Howie Rose. That should make both their fans happy.