PITTSBURGH -- Two minutes, two misses. And now no more chances for the New York Jets.
Doug Brien lined up for his second shot at winning the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the last play of regulation. The 43-yarder launched off his foot, and Brien immediately knew something was terribly wrong. He kicked the ball so hard, it started curving, curving, curving until it sailed wide left.
Just before that, Brien bounced a 47-yard try off the crossbar that would have given the Jets the late lead -- the first time in NFL postseason history a player missed two field-goal attempts in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Steelers got the perfect opportunity to steal a game they seemed destined to lose. Jeff Reed kicked a 33-yard field goal in overtime to win it 20-17 on Saturday, and the Cardiac Jets trudged off the field. Heartbroken.
Kind of like what the Jets did to the Chargers last week in the wild-card round, when Brien was the hero after making a 28-yarder to win it.
"I just feel bad for the team," said Brien, his eyes tearing up while teammates dressed silently around him. "I'll be fine. I just feel bad for the guys that played so well, played so hard and came up short."
The Jets, who went into the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead, blew that when Hines Ward scored on a shovel pass from Ben Roethlisberger. Then Brien missed his field-goal attempts to give the Steelers new life and make the Jets the first NFL team to play three straight overtime games.
Brien, his sentences clipped, said he tried to hit his second attempt harder because the first one came up short. Everyone on the team, from coach Herman Edwards to Chad Pennington, thought the second kick would win it, prolonging their roller-coaster season.
"There was no doubt in my mind," receiver Santana Moss said. "It was so close I could almost taste it. I feel bad. When we lined up for the field goal, I thought it was over. But it's over now I guess."
After Brien missed his kicks, the Jets seemed to deflate. They got the ball first in overtim but failed to get a first down after moving to their own 41. Pittsburgh pounced on the chance, driving down the field in nearly flawless fashion.
"It's disappointing," Jets guard Pete Kendall said. "It was there for us to take. If something breaks one way or the other, then we're in here under much better circumstances."
It was a valiant effort for a team everyone wrote off when the playoffs started. The Jets entered the postseason having lost three of four. Traveling to San Diego? Many penciled in a Chargers victory. It nearly was, thanks to Eric Barton.
After withstanding a sideline fight between Edwards and running backs coach Bishop Harris, the Jets went into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead. Sound familiar?
Then Barton was flagged for roughing-the-passer on a play that would have ended the game. Instead, the Chargers tied it up and sent the contest into overtime. A 40-yard field-goal miss from Nate Kaeding saved the Jets once again, who then won it when Brien kicked a 28-yarder.
The Jets were not as lucky this time around.
Few gave the Jets any chance this week against the team with the best record in the league. Then Pennington missed practice Wednesday with a stomach virus. And Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham was not healthy enough to play, missing his sixth straight game.
Things started to look bad. Very bad.
But Edwards rallied his troops as he always does. He just needed more from his offense in what is almost sure to be the final game from coordinator Paul Hackett, scrutinized all season for his vanilla play calling. The Jets failed to score an offensive touchdown and managed just 275 yards, their lowest output since getting 235 in a 10-7 win over Cleveland on Nov. 21, when Quincy Carter was starting for Pennington.
And when they got into field-goal range, the Jets went conservative. Perhaps that cost them, because a few more yards could have made the difference for Brien.
"We had a chance to win, but as the quarterback, I'd like to get him closer to make it a little bit easier," Pennington said. "I wish we would have done that."
No matter what they tried, the Jets couldn't do enough on a day when the defense got three turnovers and Moss returned a punt for a touchdown.
With that, a season that started 5-0 ended in heartbreak, the way long-suffering Jets fans have come to expect.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.