Ken O'Brien threw for five touchdowns -- three to Mickey Shuler -- and the New York Jets set a team scoring record by routing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 62-28, today, even though they lost Freeman McNeil to a minor leg injury.
McNeil, the AFC rushing leader, bruised his lower right leg late in the first quarter with the Jets on their way to a 41-point opening half, a team record. McNeil gained 41 yards, putting his season total at 1,093, before he was hurt while blocking for O'Brien.
The victory, in the NFL's highest-scoring game this year, put the Jets' record at 8-3 and kept them atop the AFC East. They stormed back after falling behind 14-0, as O'Brien hit 17 of 24 passes for 239 yards in the first half.
He finished with completions on 23 of 30 passes for 367 yards in just under three quarters of play.
Shuler had praise for his teammate.
"Kenny is more confident the more he plays, the more he sees and the more he reads things," Shuler said. "Every pass he threw to me was perfect."
O'Brien hit Wesley Walker for a 22-yard score, then connected with Shuler for touchdowns of 11, 10 and 8 yards, all in the second period, as the Jets built a 38-21 lead.
Tampa Bay, which last week got its first win of the year by shutting out St. Louis, 16-0, to end a nine-game losing streak, rarely slowed down New York's offense. The Buccaneers turned the ball over five times on fumbles, four in the first half.
Fifty-four seconds into the third period, O'Brien teamed with rookie Al Toon on a 78-yard play for his fifth scoring pass of the day, a personal record. Toon took a sideline pass, burst out of a crowd of tacklers at midfield and scored easily.
Johnnny Hector, who replaced McNeil and had 79 yards rushing, slanted in from the seven later in the third period, and Tony Paige scored on a one-yard run with 1:14 to play for the final touchdown.
The start of the game was delayed 16 minutes by a power outage, and it took the Jets several more minutes to get started after falling behind 14-0 in the opening 3:11.
Tampa Bay drove 56 yards in three plays to open the scoring after a 45-yard kickoff return by Phil Freeman as quarterback Steve DeBerg hit Kevin House with a 39-yard touchdown pass.
O'Brien was sacked during the Jets' first possession and fumbled, and Tampa Bay nose tackle Karl Morgan recovered at the New York 18. DeBerg hit House for 11 yards, then found tight end Calvin McGee for seven yards and a touchdown.