- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was lightning in the sky, and lightning in Brett Favre's right arm -- still. He threw three touchdown passes in a span of 14 minutes, threatening to create his own "Monday Night Miracle" on the night the original Miracle Jets were honored.
On the New York Jets' sideline, the confidence never wavered. When it looked like Favre was going to steal the night, they counted on two things: their own resilience and Favre's penchant for the killer interception. Both proved true, as the Jets won their fourth straight, hanging on for a 29-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at a rain-soaked New Meadowlands Stadium.
"We said, 'Let's just keep playing, he'll throw us one,'" defensive end Shaun Ellis said later in the dry and jubilant locker room. "We were just waiting for him to show up."
Said right tackle Damien Woody: "History tells you he's going to give you a couple."
Woody and Ellis were teammates of Favre in 2008, when the legendary quarterback's one-year marriage of convenience to the Jets ended with a downpour of interceptions over the final few games. So yes, they had seen that act a few times.
Favre played down to that level for the first 39 minutes, looking old and distracted by his off-the-field scandal as the Jets jumped to a 12-0 lead. But suddenly, it was 22-20, and Favre had the ball at his 16-yard line with 1:48 to play.
Quicker than a text message, he had morphed from Bad Brett into Good Brett.
"He makes you laugh and makes you cry," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said.
At that point, the Jets needed someone -- anyone -- to make a play, and what happened next was something that epitomized the night, perhaps their season. They found a way to win.
"We felt confident we were going to win the game," a relieved Rex Ryan said, "but we didn't know how."
Here's how: On third-and-5, Ryan called, "3-2 Kings 1" -- a blitz out of their dime package. The "Kings" took down Lord Favre, with two unheralded players, Marquice Cole and Dwight Lowery, teaming up to make the biggest play of the night.
Cole came free on a delayed blitz, getting in Favre's face. The gray-haired gunslinger threw too soon, looking for tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to his right. Lowery, in the game only because of an injury to nickel back Drew Coleman, read it perfectly. He stepped in front of the pass and returned it 26 yards for the victory-sealing touchdown.
In a game that had been billed as a night of stars -- Favre, Randy Moss, Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes et al -- it took a couple of backups to make the decisive play. It says a lot about the Jets' identity. They're a resourceful team, and they've used that trait to climb into the league's elite.
"In years past, in these type of games, it was like, 'Oh, God,'" right guard Brandon Moore said. "These are games we probably lost in the past."
The Jets (4-1) put themselves in a position to lose because Mark Sanchez (21-for-44, 191 yards) was off his game and because the offense consistently wasted excellent field position. The Jets started four drives in Minnesota territory, yet didn't score a touchdown until Shonn Greene's 23-yard run with 4:30 left in the game, making it 22-13.
The defense, which carried the Jets in the first half, came unglued. Once the Vikings figured out how to beat the blitz, Favre shredded the secondary, victimizing cornerback Antonio Cromartie (37-yard touchdown pass to Moss) and picking on Revis, who clearly wasn't 100 percent and shouldn't have played.
Favre passed for 264 yards, including 233 in the second half. A couple of more completions and this might have been the Monday Night Miracle II. Ten years ago, the Jets staged a 23-point, fourth-quarter comeback to stun the Miami Dolphins. Twenty former players from that amazing night, including quarterback Vinny Testaverde, were feted in a halftime ceremony in a downpour.
On this night, the Jets almost played the role of the Dolphins. The units took turns breaking down, but the special teams came up big, with five field goals from Nick Folk and a momentum-shifting, 86-yard kickoff return by Brad Smith.
And, of course, there was Lowery, the forgotten corner. He's a film junkie, and when he saw the Vikings line up in a stacked formation to the right, with Shiancoe and Greg Lewis in a front-back alignment, he recognized the look from a previous game. He sniffed out the pass and made his break on the ball. One day he'll be able to tell his kids he intercepted a Hall of Famer to clinch a win.
"It's surreal," Lowery said. "It's the only way I can put it."
Another gut-wrenching ending for Favre. And his problems might just be beginning.
11hEric D. Williams
11hSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo