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The Hanging Chads

So if we were having a vote as to which New York sports team has tortured its fans more over the years, could our butterfly ballot contain the pictures of Chad Bradford, representing the Mets, and Chad Pennington, representing the Jets?

Bradford brings his funky, submarine style delivery to Shea Stadium this season and it's entirely possible that with the significant damage to his rotator cuff from the last two seasons that Pennington's best shot at throwing a football again might be to use that same motion.

Anyway, the Bradford/Pennington references allow me to segue, ever so slightly to a football story, since it is the last week of the NFL's regular season, one that has been a total waste right from the start if you're a follower of the J-E-T-S.

Let me say that of the four majors, football fluctuates between my third and fourth favorite sport, which probably has more to do with my distaste for violence over anything else. I never get pumped up for Monday Night Football, unless the Jets are playing and the game has significance to the playoff chase. I watch the game, understand it, and have covered it, but I'm not anywhere near as obsessed as the majority of the populace.

That said, I have a history with the Jets. I remember A.J. Duhe returning two Richard Todd interceptions for touchdowns in an AFC title game, a year after a near miracle playoff rally against the Bills was snuffed out by an end zone interception. I still see them gagging away a 10-point lead to the Cleveland Browns in another playoff debacle, as I stewed at a baseball card show in upstate New York, and hear the words I mumbled while sporting a 10-point cushion against the Broncos in the AFC title game ("Boy, it's really gonna suck if they blow this..."). I recall John Hall kicking the ball sideways to cost them a key late-season game against the Lions, a week before I drove with a friend to Baltimore to see them fall to the Ravens. And I can picture the thrill of glorious victory against San Diego and the agony of disastrous defeat in Pittsburgh from last season all too well. I won't even mention the fake-spike game because there's only so much you can take of this stuff.

But this blog isn't for the purpose of reliving the bad times, rather it's for the purpose of recalling the good ones. And since that's so, let me indulge you over Thursday and Friday with a couple of walk-off tales from Jets yesteryear.

I wish to harken back to 1991, a bizarre season in which most of the details escape me, save for a crazy clash with the Bears on Monday Night Football, a loss that left the Jets sputtering at 1-3, followed by an unlikely hot streak in which the team won six of eight. Just when things looked good, they went bad. The Jets not only lost three straight games to slip to 7-8, but lost their kicker, rock-solid Pat Leahy, to injury. Yet after all the topsy-turviness, they still would up in a one-game showdown with the 8-7 Dolphins on the final Sunday, after which the winner would claim a wild-card spot and the loser would be done for the season.

This one's more fun if you skip the first 59 minutes or so of action and zip ahead to the end of regulation (something I've often wished of NFL games). The Jets led 17-13, but Dan Marino drove the Dolphins from their own 30-yard line to within a yard of the end zone. I don't remember who broadcast the game with Dick Enberg, but I'm pretty sure they insisted the Dolphins would run the ball on fourth down. Jets defensive coordinator Pete Carroll (ha!) thought so, which explains why Ferrell Edmunds was wide open in the end zone, the recipient of Dan Marino's go-ahead throw with 44 seconds left.

In radioland, play-by-play man Marty Glickman was telling his listeners that the Jets season was doomed, and based on the Jets reputation, that was a perfectly reasonable comment.

Quarterback Ken O'Brien had 38 seconds to get the Jets into field goal range, starting from his own 30-yard line. O'Brien, best described as the Jets equivalent to Steve Trachsel (slow and average), did something he usually didn't do. He put some zip on the ball and hit Rob Moore on the first play for a 23-yard gain. One more completion and a Freeman McNeil run later, Raul Allegre trotted onto the field for a 44-yard field goal attempt. I remember my friend Dan Gordon and I teasing a Dolphins fan named Manny (not Malhotra or Aybar) in my high school journalism class with some phantom play-by-play calls, including one of Allegre coming through with the big kick and sure enough, fantasy became reality, as Allegre drilled one right down the middle, tying the game as time ran out in regulation.

In overtime, Marino morphed into the Ken O'Brien we knew and loved, and Miami's first and only drive got snuffed out after he went 1-for-4 throwing the ball. On New York's drive, O'Brien completed only one pass in OT, but it was a biggie, a 29-yard toss to Moore. The Jets had their Shawon Dunston in running back Johnny Hector, who had a couple of big runs prior to that throw (actually, a better comp for Hector, who rushed for 132 yards that day in place of Blair Thomas, might be Lenny Harris). Eventually the Jets got the football in position for a 30-yard kick from Allegre and he came through with a split-the-uprights, walk-off boot that probably would have been good from 45 (thankfully not necessary). I don't know what Glickman had to say after this one, but I did hear the Dolphins radio call of the game-winning kick and the best way to describe it would be "funeralesque."

I know that people are going to scoff at this, but since I slept through the end of the 51-45 Jets win over Miami in 1986 and through the end of their bizarre comeback against the Dolphins a few seasons ago, this game would rank as one of my all-time favorite Jet memories. In the Court of this blogger's opinion, it reigns Supreme.

True MetJets know...The hour is late so I don't have the time to fully investigate the last time the Mets and Jets had walk-off wins on the same date (anyone who wants to check before I do can post the answer in the comments section). So, for now I'll leave you in the Wayne-ing moments for the career of Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet by mentioning that the only Mets "Wayne" to hit a walk-off home run is Wayne Garrett, who had two.

another football-related post will run on Friday


Metstradamus said…
I had to miss this game because of some moronic college project...but I taped it from 1:00-4:30. Got to 3AM without knowing what happened.

Game goes to OT, Allegre lines up for the field goal, then a time out was called. Allegre lines up for a second time...and wouldn't you know it, the tape stops because I'm dumb enough to set an out time on the tape.

The next thing I do is turn on WFAN where the first caller I hear says "Ken O'Brien is the worst...he has to go!"

I fell crestfallen thinking that some cataclysmic turn of events involving Allegre's field goal being blocked and returned for a touchdown occured immediately after the tape stopped.

Luckily, that was not the case.
metswalkoffs said…
Good story...

I still don't have an answer to the Jets/Mets walk-off query...Perhaps sometime in the future...

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