|Wednesday, September 26, 2001|
Classic MNF: "Miracle at the Meadowlands"
By Will Weiss
ABC Sports Online
"All we needed was one little sack and one little fumble."
--Miami CB Sam Madison
The Miami Dolphins seemed well on their way to trouncing the New York Jets at Giants Stadium last Oct. 23. That's what anyone would have thought, judging by the way things had gone for the first three quarters.
But those who turned off their TVs and went to sleep woke up Tuesday in disbelief when reading about what transpired in the final 15 minutes at the Meadowlands.
Trailing 30-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the Jets were forced into their two-minute offense out of desperation, and Vinny Testaverde was calm in the huddle. Yet even when his 30-yard scoring pass to Laveranues Coles -- his first as a pro -- culminated a four-play, 75-yard drive just 1:11 into the quarter, there didn't seem to be much cause for alarm.
But when Testaverde connected with reserve tight end Jermaine Wiggins to bring Gang Green within 10 points just four minutes later, whispers of a comeback could be heard, and the omnipresent J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets! chant grew ever louder.
Testaverde was simply a different quarterback in this mode. Given the freedom to call his own plays, he completed passes with sniper-like precision, picking apart a Dolphin defense that had stifled him all night. His go-to receivers -- Wayne Chrebet and Dedric Ward -- made a number of clutch receptions and Curtis Martin added different wrinkles to the passing game.
The offensive train continued on the next drive as the Jets marched 64 yards in 1:52, ending with John Hall's 34-yard field goal to cut the deficit to seven. And on the following possession, set up with outstanding field position, Testaverde and Chrebet hooked up on a 24-yard TD strike to tie the game at 30-30.
Amazingly, the Jets had made it back, but there was still plenty of time left, 4:55 in fact.
The Dolphins finally responded after enduring the 23-point onslaught, as Brock Marion gave his team prime field position with a 47-yard kickoff return to the Jets' 46. On the first play of the drive, Jay Fiedler hit Leslie Shepherd for six points and Miami regained the lead. It was Shepherd's second TD catch of more than 40 yards on the night, but with the way the Jets had exposed Miami's D, the lead was not safe by any means.
Kevin Williams' return to the Jets' 43 gave Testaverde a short field to work with. Supplied with more than enough time, Vinny kept doing what he had done the entire quarter: move the chains. The biggest play came on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 4. Testaverde hit Richie Anderson for a two-yard pickup to keep the drive -- and the Jets' hopes of winning -- alive.
|Vinny Testaverde dished to Curtis Martin here, but his passing keyed the unlikely comeback.|
Then, on second-and-goal from the 3, the most memorable play of the game occurred. Testaverde floated a pass to offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott, who had lined up in the tight end position, and Elliott bobbled it for what seemed like eternity. The scene was reminiscent one of those slow-motion, cheesy, over-dramatized sequences usually seen in sports movies. Elliott hauled in the pigskin for the tying touchdown and Hall converted the PAT to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In the extra session, Marcus Coleman's pick of Fiedler led to Hall's 40-yard field goal that gave the Jets a wild 40-37 victory, ending the longest game in MNF history (4 hours, 10 minutes).
The 23-point climb was the largest fourth-quarter comeback in MNF history and was the second-largest of all-time.
After looking like the Tampa Bay "Yucks" version of himself for three quarters, Vinny Testaverde threw for 235 yards on 18-of-26 passing and four TDs in the fourth. His counterpart, Jay Fiedler, was 16-of-35 for 250 yards for the entire game.
With MNF making its first trip back to Giants Stadium since this epic, it's safe to say few people will leave the grounds or adjust their television sets on Monday should the San Francisco 49ers open up a lead on the Jets.
Will Weiss is the editor of ABC's Monday Night Football site.
|Olindo Mare and the Dolphins were dejected after the 40-37 loss.|
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