They say December is the month of miracles and there is no one that believes that more than the New York Jets faithful right now.
For the past three weeks, the Jets have been the recipients of many early Christmas gifts. Just when you thought the playoffs were out of reach, the football gods became Jets fans.
While many of us felt that these December Jets wins were too little too late, AFC teams started to fall all over themselves.
The Dolphins, Jaguars, Broncos and Ravens have done just about everything they can to give the Jets a playoff berth.
Then, of course, there are the formerly undefeated Colts, the team that provided the ultimate doorway for the Jets to walk through toward the postseason.
Real quick on that game, I don’t care if Peyton or Archie Manning was playing quarterback; the Jets beat the Colts, still made all the plays they had to make. Yes, the naysayers busted out their soap boxes, but I say tough. The optimism meter is now spiking across Jets Nation.
So the outcome of this weekend’s game against the Bengals will determine if the Jets go to the playoffs. How fitting is it that it will also be the last professional football game played at Giants Stadium? Looking back over the years the Jets haven’t exactly had much success playing there. I wonder if the “Curse of Sonny Werblin” has had anything to do with it. Many Jets fans can’t wait to see the place torn down.
I mean, think about it: The Jets are just 102-104-1 all-time in the regular season at the “home” they commandeered in 1985.
David Abraham “Sonny” Werblin bought the AFL Titans of New York in 1963 and changed their name to the Jets. On the eve of 1968-69 Super Bowl-winning season Werblin’s very own money-hungry partners (Leon Hess included) forced him out of the organization. Some believe that because the Jets, for all intents and purposes, fired Sonny, a curse was bestowed upon the franchise.
Subsequently, in 1971 Sonny built the Meadowlands Sports Complex and, 14 years later, the Jets moved into Giants Stadium.
Since then, even though the sheer number of wins and playoff games suggest otherwise, it has been a place that has provided me many great memories. Throughout this season I have been dreading this last home game because, as a creature of habit, it’s hard to see the tradition of going to every home game, sitting in the same seats, and seeing the same familiar faces come to an end. While I'm excited for the Jets to have a new home, it will take a long time to develop the rapport with my section and the stadium the way I did over God knows how many years at the old place.
As I think about going out with the old and bringing in the new, there were certain games and moments at Giants Stadium that stand out in my mind.
These games were the ones that made me proudest to be a Jets fan. They are the moments that I remember being at my happiest, cheering as loud as I could for a team that has always had my full devotion, despite its penchant for letting people down. Please note: if you are looking for the 51-45 win over the Dolphins or the Al Toon-inspired 62-28 win over the Bucs, you won’t find them here. I was in diapers.
With that, I give you the greatest Jets moments I ever witnessed at Giants Stadium. Do you remember?:
Dec. 3, 2000: Jets 27, Colts 17
The Colts scored 17 unanswered points in second-half and led 20-17 in the fourth quarter, but Bryan Cox recovered a botched snap, setting up Curtis Martin’s TD run. Martin breaks single-game franchise rushing record with 203 yards.
Jan. 10, 1999: Jets 31, Jaguars 24
Make the red-letter day in modern Jets history. In the AFC divisional playoff, Keyshawn Johnson had a TD reception, TD run and went in as safety and added fumble recovery and interception as the Jets advanced to the conference championship game
Sept. 11, 2000: MNF: Jets 20, Patriots 19 “Tuna Helper Bowl”
The Jets trailed Pats 19-7 in the fourth quarter, but Wayne Chrebet caught two TD passes from Vinny Testaverde in the final 6:25. John Abraham & Shaun Ellis (both first-round picks as compensation for letting Bill Belichick leave to coach the Pats) combined on two sacks that ended the New England’s final drive. The Jets didn’t beat the Patriots at home for another nine years.
Nov. 18, 2007: Jets 19, Steelers 16 (OT)
The Jets were 2-7 and the stadium was filled with waving yellow towels. Gang Green ties the game with less than a minute left. Then in overtime, Leon Washington returned a punt 33 yards to set up Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal.
Dec. 14, 2008: Jets 31, Bills 27
The Jets were down by 3 in the fourth, but with just under two minutes left Ellis picks up loose football after J.P. Losman fumbled, knocked down tacklers and rumbled into the end zone to give Jets the win. What followed was one of the loudest J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS chants ever.
Sept. 20, 2009: Jets 16, Patriots 9
Jets live up to their talk; Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan make their home debut. Sanchez to Keller in end zone in third quarter to give Jets 10-9 lead. Fans force Brady into consecutive delay of game penalties. Revis shuts down Moss, Feely hits 2 more FG’s – end of story.
(The next three games are what I call the “pinch-yourself-is-this-
Sept. 28, 2008: Jets 56, Cardinals 35
Jets fans welcomed Brett Favre to his first home game and watched in amazement as the ageless one threw a career-high 6 TD passes in a lopsided win over the eventual NFC Super Bowl representatives.
Dec. 29, 2002: Jets 42, Packers 17
After 1-4 start, Herman Edwards and the Jets’ playoff hopes came down to the last game of season. The Jets needed the Patriots to beat the Dolphins at 1 p.m., which they did, and then the fans enjoyed a rare laugher as Gang Green beat the crap out of Favre and the cheeseheads to win the AFC East.
Jan. 4, 2003: Jets 41, Colts 0
(This is the game I learned it’s always important to send in your money for playoff tickets well in advance) Santana Moss, Chris Baker, Chad Morton, LaMont Jordan and Richie Anderson scored as Chad Pennington tied team record for TD passes in playoff game. To this day I’ve never seen fans happier after a playoff game.
Oct. 23, 2000: MNF: Jets 40, Dolphins 37 “Monday Night (Midnight) Miracle”
In a battle for first place, the Jets found themselves down 30-7 with 12 seconds left to go in the third quarter, but somehow put up 30 points in fourth. Jumbo Elliott’s touchdown with 42 secs left sent the game into OT. John Hall’s field goal at 1:22 a.m. sent Jets fans home smiling, and Dolphins fans to bed in tears.
This Sunday will definitely be bittersweet. The Jets control their own destiny and will have thousands of optimistic fans there supporting them in their playoff hunt and to help say goodbye to Giants Stadium. While I’ll be sad to see the end of a tradition, it could mark the beginning of a new era of Jets football -- one that hopefully features many more wins than losses.