Bill Parcells might have been right about Ray Lucas. He already knew about Curtis Martin.
The inexperienced Lucas, a longtime project for the New York Jets coach, threw for two touchdowns, and Martin rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth straight game in a 24-17 victory over the New England Patriots tonight. That duo of former Patriots produced 14 points in 28 seconds late in the first half, and it was decisive.
"This is probably one of the best moments ever, besides the Super Bowl [in 1996 with New England]," said Lucas, who played special teams for the Patriots but was a quarterback at Rutgers. "You come back to beat the team and the guy [Coach Pete Carroll] who cut you, so you've got to feel pretty good."
Martin finished with 149 yards on 31 carries and a 36-yard scoring run, his longest of the season.
"Maybe we can get some momentum from this and turn our season around," Martin said.
For all their heroics, though, the Jets (3-6), who lost four games by blowing fourth-quarter leads, had to hold on. The rusty Patriots, coming off a bye, woke up in the final quarter to score 14 points.
"I was sure we weren't going to blow this lead," said Martin, who signed a six-year deal with the Jets last year. "I was standing on the sideline watching and praying."
It was another sweet victory for Parcells over his former team, which he left in a dispute with Patriots owner Robert Kraft in 1996. The Jets turned their season around last year by beating New England on a Monday night.
Martin's touchdown run made it 14-3, and when Drew Bledsoe's ill-advised bomb into the wind was picked off by Marcus Coleman and returned 26 yards, New York was in good position again with 48 seconds left in the half. Wayne Chrebet's 15-yard reception and Richie Anderson's 20-yard run got them to the 11. On third down, Lucas hit Fred Baxter for a 21-3 halftime lead.
John Hall's 26-yard field goal capped a 19-play drive of 11 minutes 23 seconds and made it 24-3.
The Patriots (6-3), who blew a chance to tie for first place in the AFC East, then responded, scoring on a 13-yard screen pass to rookie Kevin Faulk. They came right back with a 31-yard pass to Troy Brown, making it 24-17 with 6:58 remaining.
Lawyer Milloy's interception runback three plays later to the Jets 27 gave the Patriots excellent field position. But Bledsoe threw four straight incompletions.
"Like I told the players, even though we are 3-6, it is too soon to quit," Parcells said.