EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WFAN/AP) — Rex Ryan raised his arms and yelled as loud as he could. Then he shouted some more and smiled on the Jets sideline.
This one was for New York.
An emotionally charged day for the Jets ended with an unlikely comeback as Nick Folk kicked a 50-yard field goal with 27 seconds left, giving them a 27-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the final game of the NFL’s first full Sunday with the commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a backdrop.
“It was a draining game,” Ryan said. “I am just so proud we were able to pull this thing out, for the town, as well. I probably even feel better about that than I do for our football team.”
Earlier in the week, Ryan said he wanted to win this one for the New York area — even more than wanting to beat his twin brother Rob, Dallas’ defensive coordinator, with their father Buddy in the crowd. After being down by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, it appeared unlikely.
Until they got some lucky breaks and big plays to rally for the season-opening win.
It was the third time in franchise history the Jets overcame a deficit of at least 14 points in the fourth quarter, and first since the “Monday Night Miracle” against Miami in 2000.
“It was an emotional win,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “It was the ultimate team win.”
It sure was, and it took some big plays on offense, defense and special teams to get it.
With the game tied at 24, the Cowboys had a chance for a winning drive with 59 seconds left, but Tony Romo was intercepted on the first play by Darrelle Revis, who returned it 20 yards to Dallas’ 34.
“We win that football game if I don’t do what I did,” Romo said. “It’s hard to swallow.”
Four plays later, Folk kicked the go-ahead field goal against his former team.
“I thought, ‘Just make it look like an extra point,”’ Folk said. “I took a deep breath before I went on the field.”
A few moments later, he was greeted by a sideline of wildly cheering teammates.
“We just kept hanging in there and hanging in there, believing we can get it done,” Ryan said. “I can’t be more proud of our team. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but we’ll take this kind of victory any day of the week.”
The Jets tied it with 5 minutes left when Isaiah Trufant, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, ran in a blocked punt from 18 yards for a touchdown. Joe McKnight charged up the middle unblocked and got his hands on Mat McBriar’s kick, which bounced right into Trufant’s hands.
“I took two steps past the line,” McKnight said, “and just dove for it.”
It appeared the Cowboys were going to take a two-touchdown lead midway through the fourth quarter when Jason Witten’s 64-yard catch put the ball at the Jets 3. Three plays later, Romo scrambled, then tried to run it in up the middle, but was sacked by Mike DeVito. The quarterback lost the ball—and it was recovered by nose tackle Sione Pouha.
The Jets turned over the ball a few minutes later when a blitzing Danny McCray sacked Sanchez, hitting him from behind and knocking the ball loose.
“It was such a bonehead move and there’s no excuse for that,” Sanchez said. “That just can’t happen. After that, we needed a big play and we got it on special teams.”
But the Cowboys couldn’t take advantage when they had two penalties and were forced to punt—the play that swung the momentum in the Jets’ favor.
“We clearly need to play better at the end to win the ballgame,” said Dallas’ Jason Garrett, whose debut as the team’s full-time coach was spoiled.
Sanchez was 26 of 44 for 335 yards and touchdown tosses to Dustin Keller and Plaxico Burress, who played in a regular-season game for the first time in nearly three years. Sanchez, who was knocked around a bit in the game, appeared weary but said he felt fine.
Burress last played in 2008 for the Giants before he spent 20 months in prison on a gun charge. He knew it would be an emotional moment when he finally took the field.
“It feels like I never left,” he said. “I still have some football shape to get in to. I expected to be a little fatigued going into the fourth quarter.”
A few plays after putting a bone-crunching hit on Cowboys defensive back Michael Jenkins while blocking on a 28-yard catch by Santonio Holmes, Burress had a 26-yard catch as he spun into the end zone to make it 24-17 with 11:56 left. The play was reviewed by officials and upheld.
“Mark just gave me an opportunity,” Burress said. “He believed in me to make a play. He said my guy is better than your guy and he put it over there.”
Burress bowed to the crowd and then stretched both arms out with the ball in one hand, yelled to the crowd in celebration and gave the ball to his 4-year-old son Elijah in the stands. He finished with four catches for 72 yards.
Romo was 23 of 36 for 342 yards and two touchdowns, picking on Antonio Cromartie on both to help give Dallas a 24-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Romo threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant on the Cowboys’ opening drive. Miles Austin also outwrestled Cromartie for a 36-yard TD in the third period, and it appeared Romo’s return after missing the final 10 games of last season with a broken left collarbone was going well—until it all fell apart in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys fell to 246-1-1 when leading by 14 points in the fourth quarter, according to STATS LLC.
“We lost this game because of me,” Romo said.
Witten finished with six catches for 110 yards, Austin had five for 90, and Bryant caught three passes for 71 yards.
New York responded after Austin’s score with a 33-yard pass to Jeff Cumberland that sparked a 64-yard drive. Folk capped it with a 34-yard field goal that made it 17-10.
Burress got his first reception with 44 seconds to go in the third quarter, an 18-yarder, but Sanchez’s next pass was intercepted by Sean Lee, and the Jets missed several tackles as Lee scurried down the right sideline for 37 yards to the New York 1 as the period ended.
But after an incompletion to Witten, Felix Jones went off left end to make it 24-10 early in the fourth quarter. And then, the Jets began their rally.
“It’s amazing,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t get much better than this, especially the way we got it done, the resolve that this football team has. We played far from a perfect game. Not even close. That’s an excellent football team. I’ll sign up right now to play them in the Super Bowl.”
Notes: The Jets played a clean game with no penalties, compared to seven for the Cowboys. The last time the Jets were not called for any penalties was a 16-9 loss to Philadelphia in 2007. … Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware had two sacks. … Among those in attendance included President George W. Bush, who participated in the pregame coin toss, and his wife, Laura, actors Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, and rapper Jay-Z.
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