EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was dramatic. And crazy. And inexplicable.
The headline is this: The Jets (10-5) won their fifth straight and -- get this -- control their own playoff destiny thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers' upset loss to the Baltimore Ravens. If the Jets beat the Buffalo Bills next week, they'll be in the playoffs.
The Jets received two gifts in a matter of minutes -- the Steelers' loss and Matthew Slater's decision on the overtime coin toss. The Patriots won the toss, but Slater told the referee they wanted to kick off -- an ill-fated choice that will live in infamy.
Capitalizing on the break, the Jets went 80 yards in only four plays, ending with Ryan Fitzpatrick's 6-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker. It was set up by a 48-yard pass to Quincy Enunwa, who atoned for a previous drop.
Maybe the football gods, after nearly five decades of torturing the Jets, finally are smiling on them. How else do you explain something like this? The Jets blew leads of 17-3 and 20-13, played poor offense in the fourth quarter and ruined an otherwise great defensive performance by allowing a Tom Brady touchdown pass in the final minute of regulation.
But they survived. Crazy.
What it means: It means everything. The Jets can scrap their four-year playoff drought by beating old friend Rex Ryan.
Up-and-down Fitz: Fitzpatrick (26-for-41, 296 yards) got off to a slow start, missing a couple of open receivers on deep throws. But he came alive in crunch time. Again. For 60 minutes, he was off his game, but he rose up when it mattered most, finding Enunwa and Decker. He managed to hit a rare deep ball, a 33-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. It was Fitzpatrick's first scoring pass of at least 30 yards in the air this season. Previously, he was 3-for-25 on throws of that distance, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
One reason to get excited: Marshall, rebounding from a nightmarish performance against the Patriots in Week 7, played perhaps his best game of the season -- eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't his best from a statistical standpoint, but he delivered in the clutch. Before this season, the knock on Marshall was that he was a terrific individual performer, but he shriveled up in the big moments. See: no postseason appearances in nine seasons. He's changing his reputation. With his first catch of the game, he broke Al Toon's 27-year-old franchise record for most receptions in a season. Marshall now has 100 catches, making him the first player in NFL history with six 100-catch seasons.
Gronk a small factor (sort of): The Jets did a nice job on tight end Rob Gronkowski for three quarters, but he erupted in the fourth with a huge fourth-down grab to set up the tying touchdown. Safety Calvin Pryor couldn't stop him on two key pass plays in crunch time. Previously, the Jets had success with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie covering Gronkowski. In fact, Revis made an interception on a Gronkowski target. It was Revis' third career interception against Brady, the most he's had against any quarterback. Let's be honest, though: The Gronk challenge wasn't as daunting as usual because the Patriots didn't have their starting wide receivers, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. It allowed the Jets to focus on Gronkowski.
What were they thinking? Oh, Matthew Slater. What were you thinking on the overtime coin toss?
Fantasy watch: Marshall scored his 12th and 13th touchdowns, moving into third place on the team's single-season list for receiving touchdowns. Marshall's sidekick, Decker, was a nonfactor thanks to excellent coverage by Malcolm Butler. Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes, his 27th, 28th and 29th, tying Vinny Testaverde's team record, set in 1998.
Ouch: Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was carted off in the fourth quarter with a calf injury. He didn't return. Too bad; he had a nice game against his former team, making four catches. Chris Ivory injured his right knee in the first half. He returned in the third quarter, but he was largely ineffective.
What's next: The Jets finish the season at the Buffalo Bills, who are playing out the string under former Jets coach Rex Ryan.