Weatherford's Big Play

He didn't have the best day kicking, but the Jets Steve Weatherford was clutch when it mattered most.

It didn't make "SportsCenter" and it probably went unnoticed by Jets fans back home, but Steve Weatherford's fourth-quarter tackle following a punt may have been a game-changing play. Weatherford sent a 40-yard punt from around midfield with 3:29 left and the Jets nursing a 21-11 lead. The left side of the field opened up for Pats returner Julian Edelman after Dwight Lowery over ran the coverage.

Edelamn juked, then worked his way up the left side, where he followed his blockers and found even more space. With his team needing a big play, it looked like Edelman might come up with six points and give the Patriots a shot at taking the lead on their next possession. All that stood between the New England returner and a touchdown was Weatherford.

It's the stuff that NFL blooper shows use as their bread and butter, the quick and skillful returner against the inept and plodding punter. But it turns out that for the Jets, Weatherford was more than enough.

"I saw him coming up there and I knew I had to get in and make a play [or else] he was going to get loose and perhaps go the whole way," Weatherford said. "So I just positioned myself so that he wouldn't just run over me, just lean in to him so that it wouldn't be him impacting me but vice versa. He was coming hard and fast, so I couldn't let him roll over me."

Weatherford got low enough on the tackle that he managed to make a direct hit on Edelman which sent the ball carrier flying back. The leverage gave Weatherford the chance to avoid being an embarrassing footnote in a highlight clip, the much clichéd punter or kicker flailing at the returner with vain hopes of making contact let alone getting in on a tackle. Instead, Weatherford and his tackle sustained the lead for the Jets and forced the Patriots to use valuable time in trying to move the ball.

"It's not something we practice or anything I do to keep sharp," Weatherford said. "People always forget that I was a safety in college for my first couple years before focusing on the kicking game. So I'm not exactly new at this whole tackling thing, it's just that I haven't had one quite this big or important before."


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