QB Vinny Testaverde did what he was supposed to do and what not many expected him to do - he stopped the Jets' nosedive and helped the Gang Green hand Tampa Bay their first loss of the season, 14-12.
The game had a promising start for the Jets as the Bucs went three and out and punted from their 18-yard line. WR Jerricho Cotchery, however, fumbled the punt, giving the momentum and favorable field position back to the Buccaneers. The Jets' defense came up big again, limiting Tampa Bay to just a field goal. Then, it was Testaverde's turn to finally step onto field. On the second play from scrimmage Vinny connected with WR Laveranues Coles for a 31-yard gain, driving the Jets deep into Tampa Bay's territory. That completion was followed by a no gain run by RB Curtis Martin, an incomplete pass to TE Chris Baker and a 5-yard gain to Coles. The drive got stalled at the Bucs' 22-yard line, which seemed to be a pretty good distance for rookie PK Mike Nugent to equalize. Nugent, however, missed the 40-yard attempt and the score remained 3-0.
In the second quarter the Bucs extended their lead to 6-0, as they converted a 36-yard field goal attempt. The Jets poorly responded with a three and out drive and the Bucs got the ball back on their own 31-yard line. Three plays later the Jets' defense changed the momentum, as CB Ty Law intercepted a pass and returned it to Tampa Bay's 8-yard line. RB Curtis Martin easily scored from two yards out and the Jets took the lead, 7-6. Law made another interception later in the same quarter but it was nullified by a penalty on S Oliver Celestin, which allowed the Buccaneers to score another field goal before the halftime.
The second half began with a 32-yard kickoff return by CB Justin Miller. Then, it was all Vinny who orchestrated the first Jets' offensive touchdown since Pennington's injury (the one earlier was mostly the result of the big play on defense). First, Testaverde connected with the forgotten TE Doug Jolley for a 16-yard gain on a 3rd and 1. Then, Vinny found another TE, Chris Baker, for an 11-yard gain that moved the Jets inside Tampa's 25-yard line. Five plays later RB Curtis Martin scored from one yard out on a 4th and one, as the Jets retook the lead, 14-9.
As the final quarter began, PK Mike Nugent missed another field goal (his third miss of the season), and the Bucs took over on their own 38-yard line. The Jets' defense quickly stopped Tampa Bay's inept offense, forcing them to go three and out, and the Gang Green got the ball back on their own 20-yard line. Testaverde connected with Jolley for another big gain - 22 yards, and then Martin broke his only big run of the game - 12 yards. The Jets once again found themselves in Tampa Bay's territory and with a chance to put this game away. Testarverde's deep pass, however, was intercepted by Ronde Barber at the 14, leaving the Bucs with a slight hope to turn the game around. The Bucs' ensuing drive was stopped 12 yards shy of the Jets' goal line and once again Tampa Bay had to settle for another field goal - 14-12. The Jets got the ball back with four minutes left on the game clock and three plays later Testaverde connected with Coles on what was the play that basically sealed the Jets win. Facing a 3rd down and 4, Testaverde threw a pass to Coles in double coverage that was somehow acrobatically caught at the Jets' 48-yard line - a gain of 17 and first down! Then the Jets conservatively ran twice, making the Bucs use their two remaining time outs, and on the 3rd down after the 2-minute warning Testaverde killed 8 more seconds when he ran to the left and slid down. P Ben Graham pinned Tampa Bay' inside their 15, leaving the trailing Bucs with just one minute and no timeouts.
Testaverde finished the game 13 out of 19 for 163 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT. Curtis Martin had yet another subpar game, as he gained just 59 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns. We can only wonder for how long Herman Edwards is going to continue letting him run 20+ times a game. WR Laveranues Coles led the receivers with 6 catches for 89 yards. TE Doug Jolley made 3 grabs for 46 yards - his highest outcome as a Jet thus far.
On the defensive side, LB Jonathan Vilma had a monstrous game, as he recorded 15 tackles (12 solo) and forced one fumble. LB Victor Hobson added 9 tackles (5 solo). CB Ty Law made 8 tackles (4 solo), intercepted a pass (his second of the season) and defended 2 passes. DT Dewayne Robertson also made 8 tackles (4 solo) and added 2.0 sacks.
The special teams, however, was the unit that almost cost the Jets this game. Two missed field goals and two fumbled punt returns (one was lost) are surely something that should be addressed during next week's practice sessions. CB/KR Justin Miller who averaged 27.3 yards on kickoff returns and P Ben Graham who averaged 43.3 yards on four punt attempts were the only bright spot on the Jets' horrendous special team unit.
RB Derrick Blaylock broke his foot and will miss the remainder of the season.
Next Sunday the Jets will travel to Buffalo to take on the Buffalo Bills (2-3). The kickoff time is at 4:15 PM ET.