<
>

Jets stage uncharacteristic December win

12/16/2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- With their December demons
seemingly knocking them down again, the New York Jets did something
unusual. They won.

Ignoring a history that says they plummet from the playoff race
in the final month of the calendar, the Jets rallied in the fourth
quarter Sunday for a 15-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Seldom-used tight ends James Dearth and Anthony Becht caught
short touchdown passes from Vinny Testaverde. Although New York
failed on both 2-point conversions, it held on thanks to late
interceptions by Damien Robinson and James Farrior.

"A win is what we wanted, hex or no hex," Becht said after the
Jets broke a five-game December slide. "I've only been here two
years and I am not really concerned with what happened before that,
or even know much about it. We want to end this on a winning
streak, and we have three left."

While they'll probably need two more wins to be assured of
making the playoffs, the Jets (8-5) can't expect to get them
playing well in spurts. They fell behind 14-3 before finding a
rhythm in the fourth period.

"There may have been a little bit of a feeling of desperation,
knowing time is running out," said Testaverde, who was told at
halftime by coach Herman Edwards that "the game was on my
shoulders. When he comes to me and asks me to step it up, my eyes
light up and I get excited."

The Jets' sputtering offense woke up after Corey Dillon's second
short TD run. Receptions of 18 and 27 yards by Kevin Swayne,
another lightly used receiver, led to Dearth's first career scoring
reception, a 1-yarder.

What will a win like this do for Vinny Testaverde's confidence?
It will help him -- for Vinny to bring the Jets back like he did should give him some confidence. And winning an important game in December helps the Jets' confidence, too; it should quiet the critics to a degree.

The Jets had some success throwing the ball, but they still need to open things up. New York needs to become more aggressive on offense. They can't be conservative but must take the game to the defense.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


height=4>

"I had a bad field-goal snap in the first half," said Dearth,
the team's long snapper, "so that touchdown made me feel much
better. It was a real good day for the tight ends."

Becht is the starting tight end, but doesn't get much action in
the passing game. Testaverde could have ignored him after Becht's
brutal drop on the game's first series. Instead, he scrambled at
the 3 before finding Becht in the back of the end zone.

"My role changes every week," he said. "I was fortunate this
week. I was able to do something positive."

A little trickery aided the Jets on their decisive drive. After
an 18-yard pass interference call against Bengals cornerback Mark
Roman, halfback LaMont Jordan took a direct snap, faked a handoff
to Martin and sped 16 yards to the 5.

Damien Robinson then picked off Jon Kitna's pass and returned it
30 yards, but John Hall missed a 34-yard field goal with 1:11
remaining.

James Farrior, however, got the Jets' third interception of the
game, putting them at a league-best plus-23 in turnover margin.

"We hadn't been getting many turnovers lately, and we knew how
much they mean," Robinson said.

Before the comeback, Dillon went over 1,000 yards rushing for
the fifth straight season and scored two touchdowns for Cincinnati
(4-9).

While the Jets came out flat, the Bengals appeared ready to snap
a five-game slide because of just two drives. But what drives they
were, covering 81 and 87 yards, with Dillon the main weapon on
both.

Cincinnati's first possession was a masterpiece of clock
domination, lasting 20 plays and 12 minutes -- both team highs for
the season. The Bengals converted four times on third downs and
once on fourth-and-1. Dillon concluded the drive with a 1-yard
dive.

Hall missed a 40-yard field goal wide left after the bad snap,
then hit a 24-yarder with 18 seconds left in the half to make it
7-3.

Bengals quarterback Akili Smith left in the second period with a
hamstring problem -- he is out for next week -- and was replaced by
Kitna, who had a sprained finger on his right hand. Kitna's second
pass, a desperation throw at the end of the second quarter, was
picked off by rookie Jamie Henderson.

But Kitna guided a 13-play, 87-yard drive on which Dillon gained
63 yards and scored from the 3, making it 14-3.

"I'm so ticked off, the only thing I can do is try to relax,"
said Dillon, who has 1,010 yards rushing. "Until we get over the
hump and learn what we have to do to win, this is what will
happen."

Game notes
The Bengals were without linebacker Steve Foley, whose
44-game starting streak was snapped because of a back problem. ...
Besides their 81- and 87-yard drives, the Bengals gained 80 yards.
... Testaverde moved into 14th place with 238 career touchdown
passes ... Henderson's interception was his first in the NFL.