| Jets Lose Game, Testaverde vs. Patriots By Jimmy Golen |
Sunday, September 12, 1999; 10:58 p.m. EDT EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The New York Jets lost the game and much, much more.
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the New England Patriots' 30-28 comeback victory Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.
And just like that, the defending AFC East champions no longer look like strong contenders for the Super Bowl.
Chris Slade intercepted a pass from Jets backup Rick Mirer to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning, 23-yard field goal with three seconds left. Drew Bledsoe completed 21 of 30 passes for 340 yards and a 58-yard touchdown pass to Tony Simmons.
The Patriots got their first win in four attempts against their former coach, Bill Parcells, who left on bad terms after leading them to the 1997 Super Bowl. Two seasons later, he had the Jets in and AFC title game; even more was expected of them this year, until Sunday.
Testaverde fell to the turf untouched after making a quick cut to the ball when Curtis Martin fumbled in the second quarter. The 35-year-old quarterback immediately grabbed his left leg and writhed in pain.
He limped off the field, using one leg and two teammates for support before he stopped and had to be carried off. At halftime, the Jets announced he will miss the rest of the season.
Although punter/quarterback Tom Tupa filled in admirably – throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Keyshawn Johnson to make it to 14-10 on his first play from scrimmage – the injury was a sudden, stunning blow to a team considered ready to make a run for the Super Bowl.
Tupa completed 6 of 10 passes for 165 yards and two TDs in all, and also pinned New England on its own 1 with a punt. Because Mirer had been designated as the emergency quarterback, he couldn't play until the start of the fourth quarter or Parcells would have lost Tupa for the game.
New York led 16-10 at the half before Tupa fumbled and Willie McGinest fell on it in the end zone to give New England a 17-16 lead 84 seconds into the third quarter. Terry Allen broke a 22-yard touchdown to give New England a 24-16 lead, and Vinatieri added a 21-yard field goal to make it 27-16 with 6:06 left in the third.
But Tupa hit Johnson for a 65-yard gain to bring the ball to the Patriots 5, then hit Fred Baxter three plays later for a 7-yard touchdown with 3:53 left in the third. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and left the score 27-22 until Bryan Cox intercepted Bledsoe and returned it 27 yards for a TD; but again the Jets failed on an attempt for 2.
Those two missed extra points turned out to be crucial, as would the field goal Parcells passed up when he went for a first down on fourth and 5 from the Patriots 15 with 12:50 left in the game. Tupa scrambled and was tackled after about 4 yards.
After it was measured to be short of the first down, Parcells challenged the call under the NFL's new instant replay rule. It was upheld, costing the Jets a timeout.
The Jets went virtually the entire 1998 season without a serious injury while coming within one victory of the Super Bowl, losing in the AFC championship to the Denver Broncos. That luck didn't even last until the opener: They lost cornerback Otis Smith and wide receiver Wayne Chrebet in the preseason.
But none of those players were as important as Testaverde, who had a career year in 1998 while throwing for 3,256 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was 10-for-15 for 96 yards with one touchdown and one interception on the day.