Like Old Times.
Vinny Testaverde's return to the Jets wasn't pretty but it resulted in a 14-12 win over Tampa. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
It wasn’t pretty and the ending caused heart palpitations for everyone in the Meadowlands but Vinny Testaverde’s return to the Jets was a rousing success.
The 41 year old warhorse began what could end up to be a great NFL comeback story by leading the Jets to a 14-12 win over the previous unbeaten Buccaneers.
The win did come with a lot of help from Testaverde’s teammates including a stifling defense that didn’t allow a Tampa to cross the goal line and two touchdowns by fellow long time veteran RB Curtis Martin.
Jets offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who so far this year has made Paul Hackett’s offense look like Don Coryell’s, finally opened it up a bit by letting Testaverde throw downfield. Despite only six practices, the 42 year old looked sharp. He completed a few nice passes to Laveranues Coles (6 catches, 89 yards) and even got the invisible TE Doug Jolley into the offense with three catches for 46 yards.
Testaverde entered the game to huge cheers from the sold out Meadowands crowd and although his numbers were not mind blowing, he finished completing 13 of 19 passes for 163 yards. His one mistake was a 4th quarter interception to the Bucs’ Ronde Barber which could have put the Tampa ahead. Instead, the Jets defense clamped down and only allowed a field goal.
Tampa was without rookie sensation RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams due to a hamstring injury and his replacement Michael Pittman (13 carries, 46 yards) was ineffective against a tough Jets defense that also sacked Bucs QB Brian Griese three times.
The Jets first score in the second quarter came after a Ty Law interception of Griese that was returned to the Bucs’ 8 yard line. After a personal foul penalty by Tampa’s Ronde Barber on Kevin Mawae, that brought the ball to the 2, Curtis Martin scored one play later. The Jets’ second TD came on their first possession of the second half after a pretty 31 yard kickoff return by rookie Justin Miller. Testaverde was an efficient 3 for 3 for 32 yards on the drive and Martin scored his second TD on 4th and goal from the 1.
Trailing by two with a minute left on their own 12, the Bucs tried to muster one last attempt at a win. But with no timeouts, they only got to the Jets 34 before time expired.
Blaylock lost for the year. RB Derrick Blaylock, who was signed in the off-season to replace LaMont Jordan, broke his foot and is out for the year. Look for Rookie Cedric Houston to get more reps in the coming weeks and possibly another RB added to the roster this week.
D-Train, Jolley Good: Jets DT Dewayne Robertson had a great game with 8 tackles and 2 sacks. Also, as mentioned above, first round trade TE Doug Jolley finally had a breakout game with 3 catches for 46 yards including a pretty 22 yard strike over the middle from Testaverde.
Rookie Blues For Nugent. Rookie kicker Mike Nugent had a day he’d like to forget by going 0-2 in the FG department. He was wide right on his first attempt from 40 and badly shanked a 48 yarder in the second half.
Where was Fireman Ed? A noticeable absence at the game today was Fireman Ed Anzalone and his J-E-T-S chant. Jets Insider.com has learned that Anzalone purposely skipped the game today in protest of the Jets signing their new stadium deal with NJ. At this time it’s not know when or if Fireman Ed will return. Another fan in Anzalone’s section tried to take over the cheer but it was not nearly as loud.
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Besides losing Blaylock for the season with a broken foot, LB Eric Barton (ankle) sat out the game and was replaced by Mark Brown.
Now with some confidence restored the team will try to build on this win and travels to Buffalo next week for a conference match up against the Bills. With today’s win the Jets (2-3) are just a game back of division leading New England (3-2). Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest NY Jets news.