NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Now there’s the red-zone target the Jets were expecting.
After catching his third touchdown pass of the day, Plaxico Burress went wild. Well, at least by his standards.
The wide receiver swiped at one of his helmet straps, stomped out of the end zone and screamed at the cheering crowd before he took a knee and bowed his head. This was a special moment, and Burress wanted to savor it.
“The fans pay money to come see you do well, and I felt for the past few weeks I was not playing well,” Burress said softly. “This is gratifying.”
Burress tied a career high by catching three TD passes, including the go-ahead score that was set up by an interception by Darrelle Revis, and the Jets stormed back in the second half to defeat the San Diego Chargers 27-21 on Sunday.
“You wake up on Sundays and you want to be great,” Burress said. “I had to let the game come to me. I think I’ve been forcing it. But this was them saying, ‘He’s been working hard, we’ll stick with it.'”
Good thing, too. For a guy who had been slow to develop a rapport with quarterback Mark Sanchez, Burress looked awfully comfortable as the Jets’ red-zone presence. Just as they expected when they signed him back in July after he served a 20-month prison sentence.
“I think Plaxico just got hot,” Sanchez said. “I don’t think it mattered who covered him today, he was rolling. You have to feed your studs when they’re on fire, and that’s what we did.”
Not only that, the Jets (4-3) are feeling good again after a three-game road skid that had many wondering if this team would fall apart amid criticisms, poor play, and locker room infighting. The week started with a not-so-convincing 24-6 home win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, and ended with a second-half comeback against a tough Chargers team.
“We saw the team we envisioned at the start of the season,” coach Rex Ryan said of his squad. “We were slow to get it going, but we saw it.”
Leading 21-17, the Chargers (4-2) appeared to be driving for a possible game-sealing score when Philip Rivers threw to Vincent Jackson and the ball tipped off the receiver and right to Revis, fresh off his hang-up hubbub with Mike Francesa, who returned the interception 64 yards to the Chargers 19.
“It was a big play,” Revis said. “The ball popped up and I happened to just be able to get my hands up under it.”
That’s been happening a lot lately. He had two interceptions Monday night, including a 100-yard touchdown return, and has four this season.
After a few runs by Shonn Greene and a defensive holding call — the Chargers’ 11th penalty — Sanchez found Burress on a slant for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Jets the lead for the first time with 8:41 remaining. It was Burress’ second three-TD catch game of his career, and first since 2007 while with the Giants.
“You’ve got to evaluate yourself,” said Burress, who had four catches for 25 yards. “I looked at myself and said I’ve got to play better. It was not on anybody but myself.”
San Diego turned it over again on its next possession when Kyle Wilson picked off Rivers for the first career interception. The Jets took advantage as Nick Folk’s 30-yard field goal with 1:36 left made it 27-21.
San Diego had one last shot, but couldn’t really threaten against New York’s defense.
“It’s our fault,” Chargers tight end Randy McMichael said. “You can ask any question you want to ask. The San Diego Chargers beat the San Diego Chargers. Nothing to do with the New York Jets. It’s embarrassing.”
With the win, the Jets headed into their bye-week break with two straight wins — both at home. They also are off to their first 4-0 start at home since 2004.
But, they know they don’t have an easy road ahead. They’re at Buffalo in two weeks, and then play New England at home.
“This,” Revis said, “was a must-win game.”
Sanchez finished 18 of 33 for 173 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Greene had a season-high 112 yards on 20 carries.
LaDainian Tomlinson, facing his former team for the first time since signing with the Jets last offseason, became the fourth running back in NFL history with 600 catches before leaving in the second half with the flu. He finished with 14 yards rushing and three catches for 37 yards.
The game had some added spice when Ryan — who later apologized — created a coast-to-coast stir by saying he probably would’ve won a few Super Bowl rings if he had been hired as the Chargers’ coach in 2007. That job went to Norv Turner, who shot back at Ryan asking if he had those rings stored with the ones he has guaranteed with the Jets.
The two shook hands after the game and had a brief but cordial conversation.
The Chargers jumped out to an early lead and would have been up by a bunch if not for mistakes. San Diego, coming off its bye, was called for a whopping 13 penalties.
“The bottom line is we came out playing really well,” said Rivers, who was 16 of 32 for 179 yards and a touchdown — and the two costly interceptions. “We just didn’t finish off the game. If we played the second half like we played the first, it would have been a two-touchdown victory.”
Mike Tolbert gave San Diego a 21-10 lead with 1:16 remaining in the first half on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Burress’ 4-yard touchdown catch that made it 21-17 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
Donald Butler gave the Chargers an early 7-0 lead when he ripped the ball out of the hands of New York’s Dustin Keller and scored on a 37-yard fumble recovery. Antonio Gates, who missed three games with a flare-up of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, had a 2-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that made it 14-3.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead for us,” Burress said. “It’s a start, a stepping stone we can build on.”
Jets fans: is this the team you expected? Sound off in the comments below…
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