Jets DE Shaun Ellis makes one of seven NY sacks as Gang Green stuns Pittsburgh 19-16. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The game felt like it was over. Following a Jeff Reed field goal that put Pittsburgh up for the first time, 16-13, in the final quarter, QB Kellen Clemens was intercepted by CB Deshea Townsend on an under-thrown pass, giving Pittsburgh the ball with the lead in Jets’ territory with 7:50 left.
New York’s defense forced a Pittsburgh turnover.
Then, again, Pittsburgh appeared to wrap up the ball game. Clemens threw an incomplete pass to WR Justin McCareins on fourth-and-five, giving Pittsburgh the ball near midfield.
But again, the Gang Green defense limited Pittsburgh, this time to a three-and-out.
Finally, in his third try, the second-year Jets’ quarterback orchestrated a 13 play, 76 yard drive with just 2:23 left on the clock, enabling the team to force overtime with a Mike Nugent field goal.
And, in overtime, with momentum on their side—nicely supplemented by a spectacular Leon Washington return to the Steelers’ 26-yard-line, the Jets found themselves on the positive side of a 19-16 upset over one of the AFC’s best teams.
“Leon had a heck of a punt return, and he made a good play for us. I thought he was going to the end zone,” LB David Harris said with a smirk. “And then Nugent came up big for us.”
The game truly was a thriller. In an essentially neutralized field with a high concentration of black and gold in the stands, a seemingly insignificant mid-season contest for a 1-8 team took on the persona of a playoff game, with the teams engaging in a defensive battle the entire afternoon.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was stopped the all game; he managed only 195 yards passing and just five yards rushing.
Running back Willie Parker, meanwhile, was held to only 52 yards on the ground on 21 carries.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis, who stripped Roethlisberger late in the game for a much-needed momentum booster, summed it up best.
“We just came out and executed today. We just came out, we made up our minds, and said enough is enough,” Ellis said.
As mentioned, New York’s defense was not the only unit to perform admirably. The Steel Curtain forced Clemens to be off balance and out of sync all day, as the Oregon product’s quarterback rating was only 58.8, primarily due to a multitude of over-thrown, ill-advised passes.
However, the NFL’s top-ranked defense did falter in one phase; controlling the ground. Notoriously the league’s best run-stopping unit, RB Thomas Jones accumulated over 100 yards in the victory for New York.
“The offensive line did a good job in their blocking and holding their blocks,” Jones said. “It was definitely a team effort and a group effort, and everybody is pretty satisfied today with the running game.”
The scoring for the game began in the first quarter, with New York calling a flea flicker on only the second play that worked to the tune of a 56-yard completion to WR Laveranues Coles, putting the Jets on the Steelers’ one-yard line just seconds into the game.
“It was definitely a play we practiced this week, and something we thought about, and fortunately it was pretty effective,” Clemens said. “Pittsburgh is obviously a very good defense and very aggressive, and we saw an opportunity to take a shot early.”
Clemens would hit TE Chris Baker for a touchdown, giving the Jets an early 7-0 lead.
The two teams would remain close, with a Santonio Holmes touchdown sandwiched by a pair of Nugent field goals enabling New York to lay claim to a 13-7 halftime lead.
The second half continued the trend of limited scoring. Reed booted three consecutive field goals, two in the third quarter and one in the fourth quarter, to give Pittsburgh the lead before they would ultimately fall in the extra period.
“It seems like it’s been a little bit longer than a couple weeks,” Mangini said. “But yea, the apple pie is going to taste better, and it’s a lot better way to spend a Sunday night.”
Perhaps New York should be ready for more of the Mangini Regime’s post-bye magic.
At halftime, all-time Jets great and four-time team Most Valuable Player Curtis Martin was honored with a ceremony to commemorate his illustrious career with the Jets.
Martin was introduced by his former coach, Bill Parcells, who said, “And now, ladies and gentleman, one of the greatest backs in NFL history, Curtis Martin.”
Everybody is aware of the Hall-of-Fame caliber states Martin recorded: 14,101 yards rushing, 10-consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and five Pro Bowl appearances.
His class, though, is the aspect of Martin’s persona that made him stick out as one of New York’s darlings. He thanked the fans—and, believe it or not, the media—in his speech.
”id like to thank you the fans,” Martin said, “and I’d like to thank the media, because you have let me accomplish my goal in the NFL, which was to retire with a good name.”
Martin was, as expected, very gracious of the honor, and appeared emotional at times.
His name has been in headlines of late suggesting that he may become a part owner of an NFL franchise by next year.
Short week ahead
Gang Green will not have much time to celebrate their upset victory of Pittsburgh. Just four days from now, on Thanksgiving, New York travels to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. For the most part, however, the players seem excited for the opportunity to be in the national spotlight; specifically Jones.
“It’s exciting. Any time you have a national audience, it’s an opportunity for you to showcase your abilities and show what type of team you have in front of the country,” Jones said. “It’s always fun when you get a chance to play against your brother [Dallas running back Julius Jones], and this will be our second time playing against each other.”
Dallas defeated Washington today to move to 9-1 on the season.
Clemens went 14-31 with 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Jones averaged 3.9 yards per rush en route to his 117-yard day.
Baker had four catches in the game.
Coles only had only the one reception, and was forced to leave the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Harris had 11 tackles and one sack, Ellis had 2 sacks and Robertson had 2.5 sacks.
Paid attendance was 77,659; a rough estimate would suggest 60,000 showed up, with nearly half waving Terrible Towels.
Grading the Jets
The running game was fantastic; Jones helped the team from stalling on their drives, managing to be the first back in over two years worth of games to rush for over 100 yards against Pittsburgh. That was enabled largely by the offensive line; save the late penalty on Brandon Moore, the unit performed nearly flawlessly.
Clemens’ game was not fantastic; he looked iffy in the pocket often, sometimes forcing passes, and sometimes waiting too long to throw the ball. However, he once again lifted up to his mantra as a gamer with the drive late in regulation.
The team will need more than 19 points—albeit against a much more suspect defensive unit—to beat Dallas next week.
The defense played as close to ideally as possible. Pittsburgh managed only one touchdown, Roethlisberger was neutralized on the ground, and the only times the Steelers' quarterback escaped from the pocket, he was heavily pursued.
Pressure was finally put on the quarterback, as evidenced by the team’s season-high seven sacks, and both Parker and Davenport were ineffective on the ground.
Probably the most curious game on special teams the team has had this year. Washington was taken out of the game by strategic kicking from Reed and P Daniel Sepulveda; however, when given an opportunity, he delivered. Nugent was perfect on field goals, but very suspect on kickoffs. The Steelers’ return game, meanwhile, was non-existent.
Two mistakes lessened the job Mangini, Schottenheimer and Don Sutton did today; the two fade plays that ended the first half and regulation. The coaching staff has seen the third-down fade play not work many times this year, and running the play with Brad Smith, a No. 3 wide receiver, is a recipe for disaster.
Outside of those two calls, though, New York managed to out-coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers; especially on the game-opening flea flicker.
Simply put: the Jets won, and beat one of the league’s Super Bowl contenders in the process.
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