Jets Beat Dolphins 40-37 in OT

Tuesday, October 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Hall, Tupa celebrate Hall's winning field goal. AP Photo

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — To all the fans who left the stadium or turned off their television sets, the New York Jets have a message: Don't ever give up on us.

The Jets staged one of the most incredible comebacks in NFL history Monday night, scoring a franchise-record 30 points in the fourth quarter, then beating the Miami Dolphins 40-37 in overtime.

What was billed as a prime-time showdown for the AFC East lead looked like a humiliating rout for 45 minutes. Then the Jets conjured up the late-game magic that has marked their season.

``We're not the most talented team. We're not a St. Louis by any stretch of the imagination,'' said quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who threw for five touchdowns, four in the fourth quarter. ``But when we play hard for four quarters, good things will happen for us.''

Those good things have the Jets at 6-1, the best record in the AFC and alone atop their division. That they have used all kinds of legerdemain to get there, but nothing comparing to this.

``When our backs are against the wall, we are at our best,'' Wayne Chrebet said. ``This was the biggest comeback in Jets history, we were on the verge of being embarrassed — this might be the greatest comeback I've ever seen.''

What he and perhaps half of the original crowd of 78,389 saw after midnight was the Jets storm back to win in the fourth quarter of what has become a charmed season.

Testaverde hit Laveranues Coles for a 30-yard score, the rookie's first NFL touchdown; find rookie Jermaine Wiggins for a 1-yard TD, his first pro score; throw to Chrebet for 24 yards to tie it at 30 with 3:55 to go; then connect with 300-pound Jumbo Elliott on a tackle-eligible play to tie it at 37 with 42 seconds left.

``I ran for a touchdown in pee wee football,'' Elliott said. ``I've never caught a pass.''

Marcus Coleman, who makes a living breaking up passes, had three interceptions, two in overtime. He fumbled away the first while returning it, but held onto the second five plays later.

Chrebet turned a short pass into a 28-yard completion on third down, setting up John Hall's 40-yard field goal to cap the almost unfathomable victory.

``We've been in this position before and all hung together,'' said Coleman, who noted that coach Al Groh ``screamed and threw things around'' in the locker room at halftime. ``I've never been associated with a bunch of guys who want to win for each other and come together under adversity. It's amazing.''

The Dolphins (5-2) certainly were amazed. Their defense, which allowed 51 points and three touchdowns previously, were burned for 33 points after leading 30-7 after three quarters.

New York had 20 first downs in the fourth period to one for Miami.

``With the kind of defense we have, we felt that we had the game won,'' Dolphins receiver Oronde Gadsden said. ``I feel worse than when we lost to Jacksonville 62-7. I feel pretty low.''

It was the first time since 1981, when Atlanta did it, that a team scored 30 points or more in a fourth quarter.

And it was the second time in the NFL's prime-time spotlight this season that the Jets won so improbably — they beat New England in Game 2 almost the same way. But that game ended far earlier than this one, which stretched until 1:20 a.m. EDT.

``I thought New England was a great comeback, but this was incredible,'' Chrebet said. ``We took it upon ourselves and made the plays when we had to. It was gutcheck at halftime and we decided to go out swinging.''

But one thing bothered him.

``I got tickets for (Mets pitcher) Al Leiter,'' Chrebet said, ``and I saw him leaving early.''

Notes: Testaverde finished 36-of-59 for 378 yards, five TDs and three interceptions ... Jay Fiedler connected with Leslie Shepherd for a 46-yard TD, one play after Chrebet's touchdown, for a 37-30 lead the defense couldn't hold. ... Lamar Smith scored on runs of 68 and 3 yards and finished with 155 yards. ... Gadsden caught seven passes for 119 yards. ... Miami gained 207 yards in the opening 15 minutes, the most by any NFL team in the first period this season. ... It took the Jets until 8:04 into the second quarter to register a first down. ... Olindo Mare kicked three field goals for Miami, while Hall had two for New York.

Mare, Wilson take in the loss. AP Photo.