by Tom Shane
With Chad Pennington waving a white towel on the sidelines, making like most Jets fans who have been waving the white flag since #10 went down for the season, the Jets pulled off a huge upset Sunday, beating the previously undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-12 at the Meadowlands.
Stepping in as the third starting QB this season for the Jets was 41 year-old Vinny Testaverde, who finally gave OC Mike Heimerdinger the strong, experienced arm that his game-plans were so desperately lacking since training camp began back in late May. With Testaverde firing darts to suddenly open receivers down the middle of the field, and with Curtis Martin able to find the end zone twice (once on a gutsy 4th-and-one call by Herman Edwards), the Jets offense wasn’t the liability that it had been through the first four games of the season.
With Donnie Henderson’s defense hitting its stride after its brutal performance in the opener at Kansas City, and with Tampa’s rookie sensation Cadillac Williams in street clothes with an injured foot, the Jets defense was able to hold the Bucs to four field goals on the day. Led by Dewayne Robertson’s inspired play (two sacks, countless pressures), and a big INT by veteran Ty Law, the defense hurried Brian Griese (27 of 46, 1 INT) and shut down RB Michael Pittman to the tune of 46 ineffective yards rushing on 13 carries.
Unfortunately, while the Jets offense was improved with Testaverde behind center, it wasn’t much better than the Bucs’ anemic attack. Curtis Martin continued to have trouble getting into a groove, averaging just 2.6 YPC on 23 attempts (59 yards). Testaverde, while efficient considering he had the equivalent of only six days of practice in Heimerdinger’s complex offense, finished 13 of 19 for 163 yards with one fourth-quarter INT that allowed the Bucs to cut the lead to two points on a Matt Bryant field goal.
The Bucs had the ball with just over one minute left and were able to get the ball into field goal range after some bullet throws by Griese, but a final strike to Joey Galloway into the middle of the field, with no timeouts left to call, resulted in the clock running out before they could get their kicker onto the field.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Vinny and the Jets, as they travel to Buffalo next week to face a re-energized Bills team led by new starting QB Kelly Holcomb, and then it’s on to a Monday Night tilt with the Atlanta Falcons, who just gave the New England Patriots all they could handle even without the injured Michael Vick.