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Kristian R. Dyer will be covering the Jets the remainder of the season. This is his debut column.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jets fans have been wandering in the wilderness of the NFL for over 40 years, grasping at hope and believing in saviors named Testaverde, Toon, Parcells, Favre and Edwards. It has been four decades of misery and struggles, the boos emanating from the Meadowlands akin to the orchestra playing as the Titanic slipped into the chilled north Atlantic waters. For Jets fans, there have been precious few life preservers in sight.
But now, maybe, finally, it is over. Perhaps now the “Same Old Jets” can tied to a stake and burnt.
Sunday’s 27-21 win over San Diego wasn’t supposed to happen, not for a Jets team that has underachieved so far this year with a 3-3 record. The Chargers came into MetLife Stadium like a bolt of lightning, 4-1 on the year and a high-octane offense against a Jets team that had won once in their last four games and hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record all season. The bookmakers in Vegas didn’t like the Jets chances either, making them the underdog at home.
And with plenty of drama peppering the locker room of the Jets this week, there was very little reason to doubt that the team would head into the bye week with a losing record.
As the opening quarter played out, it looked like the “Same Old” headline could be tagged onto this Week 7 game. On the Jets opening drive, the Chargers forced a fumble which linebacker Donald Butler returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Midway through the second quarter, it was 14-3. Halftime read 21-10, and the story seemed to write itself out – the game was very much on the brink for the Jets.
So too, was their season.
Instead, this team responded in a way that it rarely did since Joe Namath ran off the field of the Orange Bowl, waiving his finger proudly after Super Bowl III. The Jets came back, the defense putting up goose eggs for San Diego on the scoreboard and the offense quietly piecing together 17 points in the second half. There is now reason to believe about this team.
There is a quiet character about the Jets that can’t be denied. They are, more often than not, their own worst enemies – they talk too much and they play with a decided edge that can lead to too many penalties and boneheaded plays. Although they call each other out publicly and their locker room scandals become public fodder, at the end of the day, they pick each other up. On a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon before a sea of green, the Jets did just that.
It would have been easy for the Jets to roll over, just like they have countless times in their franchise history. Instead, they stood up and imposed their will on the game, making amends for a first half marked by sloppiness and lapses in concentration. It was big plays from big players, a timely fourth quarter interception by Darrelle Revis and three red zone touchdowns by Plaxico Burress that stand out in the box score, but the story of the day was more than that.
What won’t be seen or understand from the box score numbers of Sunday afternoon’s game is the fight this team has. Despite the echo of boos and jeers directed at the Jets sideline, not one player hung his head; not one finger was pointed and there was no panic. There was a quiet assurance, a calm and collected confidence as the Jets understood that they were better than their halftime deficit and that the game wasn’t out of reach.
If they had failed and lost the game, the backpages of Sunday’s newspapers would have been calling it out as arrogance, the “Same Olds” again relegated to another loss. But not this Sunday and not this team.
And maybe, not this year.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer