AFC East Week 15 decisive moment

The AFC East game with the most on the line took place at Heinz Field between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New England Patriots already had clinched a playoff berth and met a nonconference opponent Sunday night. The Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins game was a formality.

The Jets, though, were in a bind.

"It was damn near a must win for us," Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis told me.

The Jets executed several pivotal plays to beat the Steelers 22-17.

Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to relieve a strangulating pressure. On fourth down late in the third quarter, Mark Sanchez tied the score on a 7-yard bootleg run for the offense's first touchdown in 12 quarters. The Jets' defense stopped Ben Roethlisberger twice from the 10-yard line in the final seconds.

The most decisive moment, however, occurred when Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor threw Steelers running back Mewelde Moore for a safety with 2:45 to play.

The Steelers still had a chance to win the game, but Taylor's safety was essential in doing two things:

  • It increased the Jets' lead to five points and forced the Steelers to score a touchdown.

  • It afforded the Steelers just one opportunity to do so because the Jets received the ensuing free kick and made the Steelers burn timeouts.

The Steelers forced a three-and-out, but Jets punter Steve Weatherford pinned the Steelers at the 8-yard line. Roethlisberger needed to go 92 yards against the Jets' prevent defense but traveled only 82.