KO Return for a TD Allows Jets to Nip Buffalo

Chad Morton had the biggest game of his brief NFL career Sunday, as he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including one for 96 yards in overtime, as the New York Jets opened up the 2002 season with a win over the Buffalo Bills, 37-31.

Morton, the third-down running back specialist, showed his versatility by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, and spoiling Drew Bledsoe's Buffalo debut. Bledsoe turned in a very workman-like performance, throwing 26-39 for 271 yards with 2 INT and 1 TD. His Jets counterpart, Vinny Testaverde, had a similar day, going 24-30 for 210 yards with 0 INT and 2 TDs.

The Jets had a continuous string of mental lapses, as they committed 10 penalties for 90 yards. Compared to last season, when the Jets led the league by committing the fewest number of penalties all season (63), many of the penalties committed were avoidable. This will be a critical point of focus for Head Coach Herman Edwards to address before their game against New England next Sunday.

The Bills scored first, jumping out to a 3-0 lead on a 52-yard field goal by Mike Hollis. The key play on this drive was a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the Jet's Nick Ferguson that allowed Buffalo to continue a drive that had stalled deep in their end of the field.

In the second quarter, Buffalo scored on an 80-yard, 10-play drive capped off by a Travis Henry 5-yard run. During this drive, three penalties by the Jets, plus a very porous run defense allowed the Bills to go ahead 10-0.

On the ensuing kickoff, Morton had the first of his run backs for a touchdown. This one went for 98 yards and quickly, the Jets had gotten back into the game, 10-7. Noticeably, the Orchard Park crowd grew very quiet, as the tempo had swung to the Jets.

On Buffalo's next series, Jets defensive back Donnie Abraham intercepted Bledsoe and returned the ball to the Bills' 19-yard line. Three plays later, tight end Anthony Becht caught a 1-yard pass from Testaverde. After the John Hall extra point, the Jets had moved ahead 14-10.

Bledsoe then mounted an 11-play, 74-yard drive that consumed 6:35. The drive ended with a Travis Henry 3-yard run for a touchdown. After the extra point, the Bills were ahead 17-14.

Not to be outdone, Testaverde mounted a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ended in a John Hall field goal of 34-yards, tying the game 17-17at halftime.

In the second half, the Jets moved ahead on a 45-yard Hall field goal after a 7-play, 42-yard drive. After the Jets stalled the Bills' next possession, the momentum looked to be all New York. No sooner said, LaMont Jordan, subbing for an injured Curtis Martin, fumbled and the ball was recovered at the Jets' 29-yard line.

Bledsoe quickly converted this mistake into points, as the Bills moved the ball 29 yards in 6 plays, capped off by a 2-yard run by Henry. After the extra point, the Bills moved ahead 24-20.

In the fourth quarter, the capitalistic Jets defense blocked a Bills' punt, which was recovered by at Buffalo's 24-yard line. Four plays later, Hall kicked a 33-yard field goal and the Jets moved within one, 24-23.

New York moved ahead later in the fourth as Testaverde hit Wayne Chrebet with an 18-yard touchdown pass. Making a gamble pay off, the Jets were successful on a two-point conversion, with Becht catching the pass from Testaverde. This was a very key play, as the Jets moved ahead 31-24.

With around three minutes left to play, the Jets' defense rose to the occasion, as NT Jason Ferguson sacked Bledsoe and forced the Bills to punt. Another mental breakdown by the Jets allowed Bledsoe to have another crack at scoring, when Damien Robinson was charged with roughing the kicker as he hit Bills' punter Brian Moorman.

With no time outs remaining and only 35 seconds on the clock, Bledsoe hit Eric Moulds with a 29-yard touchdown. Replays showed that Moulds was wide open because the safeties bit on a Bledsoe pump fake.

The Jets won the coin toss and on the kickoff, Morton ran 96 yards for the winning score. Morton was mobbed by his teammates as stunned Bills fans gasped in disbelief.





















Making The Grade




Offensive Line

After the "preseason" campaign, most people thought that the Jets O-line would adequately open holes for Martin and Jordan. Running against a suspect Bills' D-line, the Jets only amounted 73 yards on 14 carries. Big change in offense after Martin got hurt. A little scary this early in the season. Not a bad job protecting Testaverde, but much more pressure than expected. Either the Bills are much better than expected or the O-line is worse than expected. Might not know real answer until next week against NE.


Running Backs

Martin ineffective early on, then hurt early so can't really measure his effectiveness. Jordan did reasonably well, but rushing "up the middle" looked pretty ugly. Unless there is deception involved, running game is questionable. Again - could all be an O-line issue that has yet to gel.


Tight End Huge game for Becht. Great game. Very clutch. A
Wide Receivers The Jets seemed out of their game plan early and did not stretch the field with Cole and Moss. Chrebet was very clutch. B+
Quarterback Very solid play. Testaverde played within abilities and did not force many bad throws (did get away with a gift pass interference call in fourth quarter). Still, I will take this performance every week. A
Defensive Line Like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Great in pass rush. They were all over Bledsoe all game long. Abraham was still not himself and Thomas was basically a non-factor, but Ellis, Ferguson and others did a great job.

 In run defense, however, they looked terrible as once again, another average running back looked like Gale Sayers as he sliced and diced the Jets to pieces all day.

C (should be lower but it's the first week)
Linebackers Solid, but not stellar performance by this trio. Glenn made huge special team play. B
Defensive Backs Very interesting play. Bledsoe did not have lots of time to pick them apart, so D-backs didn't look too bad but you can see that these guys are going to have their fair share of mistakes made all year long. Moulds' big TD in fourth quarter was huge blow and Jets might not have recovered if not for special teams play. B-
Special Teams All the way around - excellent improvement!!! A+
Coaching Staff Need to think about a few issues that are going to cause this team troubles:· Too many penalties this week· Running game can be stopped· Need to conduct tackling practice· Need to stop opposing team's running game B

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