by Alex Parziale
On a Sunday afternoon where all eyes were on the return of Vinny Testaverde, the last drive of the game made you forget Vinny and think back to the two missed FG attempts by our first pick in the 2005 draft, Mike Nugent. Nugent, who said during draft day interviews that he had ice water in his veins and would have booted the Jets into the AFC Championship Game last year vs Pittsburgh if he was on the team, missed two long (40 & 48 yards), but not impossible, field goal attempts.
But, of course, the talk of the week and all Sunday was about Vinny Testaverde who was making his return to the team which he loved growing up and took within two quarters of a Super Bowl trip seven years earlier.
Vinny was not the Vinny of 1998, but versus the perfect 4 & 0 Bucs he didnâ€™t need to be. He made the passes he needed to make. He made the dump-offs he needed to make. He even showed the smarts of an NFL veteran when he took a third down play late in the fourth quarter and scrambled out of the pocket and slid to keep the clock running. Not bad for the soon to be 42 year-old Long Island native. Vinnyâ€™s only mistake was his INT to Ronde Barber, who should not even have been in the game. During a shoving match with Kevin Mawae, Barber threw a punch and connected across the face of one of the officials trying the separate the two players.
Vinnyâ€™s numbers were a steady if unspectacular 13 for 19, with one interception. Curtis Martin (23-59-2 TD’s), who didnâ€™t break 100 yards for the fifth game in a row, and his streak of consecutive 1000 yard seasons in jeopardy, gave the Jets all the points they needed, scoring two TD’s from two yards & one yard out respectively. Doug Jolley had three receptions, with a long of 22 yards.
The defense set the tone, not allowing a TD and giving up only four field goals. The score does not reflect the great defensive game the Green & White put up. Ty Law set up the first Jets TD with a big interception and return into Bucs territory. Another Ty Law INT soon after was negated on a penalty, and the Bucs would catch another break when Shaun Ellis was called for a bogus roughing the passer on a third down play. The Jets defense bent but didnâ€™t break. D-Rob had two sacks, and Ellis & Mark Brown had Â½ sack each.
Special Teams were anything but special, with a two fumbles and two missed field goal attempts. The only bright spot was Aussie punter Ben Graham, whom has the opposing returners going crazy with the odd spins he puts on his kicks.
So in a season that started off with the Jets being a favorite to go far into the playoffs, and five weeks later being on their third different starting quarterback, and playing an undefeated team in the Bucs, the Jets made Week 5 fun for the home fans again. Does this propel the team into a streak of wins? Who knows? But the win will give the offense, which didnâ€™t score any TDâ€™s the past two games, confidence. Vinnyâ€™s arm gives Mike Hemierdinger the ability now to stretch the opposing defense and maybe open up more room for the passing game. With the AFC East wide open, and the Jets one game behind the first place New England Patriots, anything can happen. Our view should be to take it one game at a time and next week we go up to Orchard Park, NY to play a Buffalo team that just beat the Miami Dolphins 20-14. I wouldnâ€™t book those flights to Detroit in February just yet, but at least all hope is not lost.