EAST RUTHERFORD -- The Jets-Dolphins rivalry is mostly about history. And perhaps just a little about the next Star Wars epic.
``It was like we all pulled together at one time,'' said Curtis Martin on Sunday after the Jets celebrated last year's Monday Night Miracle with yet another huge second-half comeback to confound the 'Fins, 21-17. ``If you were out on the field, you could feel it was like one force moving us and we got it done. I knew once we get that force going, we can come back on anybody.''
So the force was with the Jets again as they won their seventh straight in the rivalry, their third win overall, and their first home victory on coach Herman Edwards' watch. But it took specific bursts of second-half energy by Martin and Laveranues Coles on offense and Shaun Ellis and Marvin Jones on defense, and at halftime by Edwards and his coordinators, to lead the Jets back from the wrong side of 17-0. That was the largest deficit at home at intermission to the Dolphins since they trailed, 26-0, in 1975.
In the defensive meeting room, Ted Cottrell was as hot as his players could remember. ``Oh, he was mad,'' said nose tackle Steve Martin. Added linebacker James Darling: ``He was yelling at us, just telling us what we needed to do and what we weren't doing. He's an intense guy, and he was fired up.'' What really got Cottrell's dander up was a first half in which his unit, 30th overall and last in run defense in the NFL rankings, allowed the visitors to control the ball for 22 minutes on four drives, mainly by converting eight of 11 third- and fourth-down conversions. In the offensive room, Paul Hackett was cool. He wrote one number on the blackboard: 16.
``I thought he was going to talk about Vinny [Testaverde],'' Martin said. ``But that was our number of plays in the first half.'' Hackett's antidote was first to get Coles singled up on Miami cornerback Sam Madison for a 22-yard fade down the left sideline. Coles outleaped Madison at the 3, then stretched across the goal line with the ball to cut the Dolphins' edge to 17-7. Next came Shaun Ellis' biggest play of the season. Loosened up from a muscle pull that he aggravated in warmups, the second-year player ranged from left end to blast Lamar Smith running toward the right and jarring the ball loose, to be recovered by Jones at the Miami 27. Immediately followed Hackett's best play call of the season.
``It was said in the locker room,'' center Kevin Mawae said, ``that that might have been the best play we ran at the time we needed it this year.'' ``It'' was a reverse off of a ``fullback away,'' on which Testaverde grandly hands off to Richie Anderson, who sweeps to the left. This time, the lineman all leaned to the left, prompting the Dolphins to yell, ``Sweep! Sweep!'' After the snap, Mawae even intentionally fell down -- ``He could've won an Oscar,'' said Martin -- then sprang up and headed right. Martin, who had pirouetted back to the right, took the real Testaverde handoff behind those blocks 27 yards for the Jets' next TD, the centerpiece of his 120-yard game on 22 carries. In 28 seconds, the Jets had gone from 17-0 to 17-14. Shades of last Oct. 23, when the Dolphins had frittered away their 30-7 fourth-quarter lead in the Jets' 40-37 overtime classic. But to complete this latest miracle, they needed one more touchdown. They got that 2:34 into the final period, when Coles won a hand-fighting contest with Madison.
``We kind of got tangled up and he fell down,'' said Coles of Madison as the ever-slick Giants Stadium grass finally delivered a homefield advantage. ``Vinny threw a strike. I was so wide-open I almost dropped it.'' One secret to the Jets' success, not just against the Dolphins the last four years but against the NFL this season, is their mind-boggling plus-15 turnover differential, which leads the league and is definitely the best figure at any time since 1980 and possibly the best since the franchise began as the Titans in 1960.
Testaverde has done more than his share in beefing up that figure. After 22 more passes without an interception Sunday, Testaverde's INT-less streak is at 167, seven shy of his career record of 174, set with Cleveland in 1995. Testaverde also remains the only NFL starter who hasn't thrown a pick all year. And with no lost fumbles, either, Testaverde has had only one of his 54 drives end in a turnover, the best rate in the league. None of that would have been enough if the defense didn't come up with two late stops. First the Dolphins drove to the Jets 6 with 1:17 to play, but quarterback Jay Fiedler's double-pump to Oronde Gadsden in the end zone was deflected skyward by Damien Robinson and Marcus Coleman, with Jones snatching his second takeaway of the game for a touchback.
``It's still up in the air,'' Jones said. ``I was thinking I'd better get it before somebody else gets it.'' On the 'Fins' last gasp, Fiedler threw deep downfield with 33 seconds to go, but Victor Green intercepted and the deal was sealed. Cottrell now was dancing on the sidelines and hugging Edwards, and someone had found the perfect antidote for his earlier heat.
``All I know is, ice was flying everywhere,'' Darling said. ``It's tough to explain, being on both sides,'' said Miami wide receiver Dedric Ward, the former Jet. ``You have to have confidence for it to happen so many times. Maybe it's our mindset.'' The Jets' mindset, meanwhile, is considerably better than it would have been had they had to defend all phases of their game against a certain roasting heading into next week's home game against St. Louis. ``It was just a matter of perception and reality,'' said Edwards, who was impassioned but not angry during his halftime remarks.
``If they can score 17, so can we. The guys never panicked. And our players gained some confidence today.'' Just in time for ``The Greatest Show on Earth.'' But considering the Rams' 15-14 squeaker over the Giants and the Jets' second-half sleight-of-hand against their old rivals, it's hard to say who the greater show will be.