The frustration finally ended with 5:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Carter capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Justin McCairens to lift Gang Green to a 10-7 win over the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Jets upped their record to 7-3 and remain two games behind the first-place New England Patriots in the AFC East race. The Browns dropped to 3-7 in losing their fourth consecutive game and exited the field to a chorus of loud boos from a frustrated sellout crowd.
Gang Green's lone trip to the end zone ended a touchdown drought that extended from the second half of last week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens at the Meadowlands.
Curtis Martin, who bruised a knee in the first half, picked up 13 yards on two carries to open the game-winning drive before yielding to LaMont Jordan (18 for 73 yards).
Jordan then put on his workhorse shoes – bulling his way for 30 yards on four consecutive rushes. On his fifth carry, however, Jordan was dropped by defensive end Kenard Lang after picking up only one yard, setting the stage for a crucial third down-and-10 at the Browns' 34-yard line.
Carter hit McCairens with a pass that was short of the required yardage -- but the 6-2, 215-pounder used his strength and flexibility to stretch the ball to the 24-yard line for a first down while being tackled by a defender. The Jets' quarterback then hooked up with Santana Moss on a 13-yard play to the Cleveland 11.
McCairens caught the decisive pass at the left sideline, broke an arm tackle by Cleveland cornerback Michael Lehan and ran into the end zone. He led Jets receivers with six catches for 71 yards.
Jordan, who gained 61 of his rushing yards in the fourth quarter, essentially sealed the game on the Jets' final drive when he rambled for nine yards to convert a third-and-seven situation with 3:00 remaining.
Browns head coach Butch Davis hinted after the game that the presence of the bullish, 235-pound Jordan in the Jets' backfield took a toll on his defense.
"I'm so proud of the defense's effort today," Davis said. "They kept us in the game. Late in the fourth quarter, the Jets were able to put that one drive together – and we were kind of out of gas for having to be out there and playing so hard and so long."
Gang Green mounted its winning drive after Browns kicker Phil Dawson was wide right on a 34-yard field goal attempt with 11:27 left. Dawson, who entered the game with a streak of 27 consecutive field goals and is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, also missed on a 42-yard attempt in the second quarter.
After the game, Dawson said dampness on the field was a culprit in his two failed field goal attempts.
"Look at the field today," Dawson said. "I hate to say this, but it is hard to kick in Cleveland at this time of year."
The Jets defense played decently against a struggling Browns offense, limiting the hosts to only 216 total net yards, including 99 rushing. Gang Green stopped the Browns on their final drive of the game when rookie safety Erik Coleman sacked quarterback Kelly Holcomb for a three-yard loss on third down, forcing a punt. Linebacker Eric Barton paced the Jets' defense with 10 tackles (seven solo).
Martin rushed for 88 yards on 17 carries – and added new milestones in the process. In gaining his 1,000th rushing yard of the season in the first quarter, Martin joined Barry Sanders as the only two backs in NFL history to accomplish the feat in their first 10 seasons. In addition, Martin passed Tony Dorsett for sixth place in career rushing yardage.
Overall, however, Sunday's game gave a new definition to ugly. Carter was sacked six times – five of them occurring in the first half – as the Jets' offensive line had trouble in the first two quarters handling Cleveland's relentless blitz packages. The Jets were a ghastly 0-for-eight on third down conversions in the first half and only two-for-14 for the game. Late into the second quarter, Gang Green had zero net-passing yards.
But there was some improvement in the second half, as Carter made adjustments to his drop and release to counter the Browns' blitz.
"We did a good job of countering what [the Browns] were trying to do to us, by getting the ball out quickly to our receivers," Jets head coach Herman Edwards explained.
In the first half, however, Carter appeared confused at times. He overthrew or under-threw receivers on several occasions as he tried to deal with the defensive pressure.
On the afternoon, the Jets quarterback completed 11-of-16 passes for 116 yards and the one touchdown. Carter was intercepted once, when Earl Little picked off his long throw to Santana Moss at the Cleveland 1-yard line in the second quarter. The turnover followed B.J. Askew's recovery of a muffed punt by Dennis Northcutt at the Cleveland 47-yard line.
The Browns took a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime on Jeff Garcia's first-quarter 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Shea, who went in motion across the formation and was uncovered in the end zone. Garcia (10-for-17 and 88 yards) was forced to leave the game in the second quarter after suffering a strained shoulder following a tackle by defensive end Shaun Ellis. Holcomb replaced Garcia but was ineffective, completing four-of-10 passes for only 32 yards.
After taking the game's opening kickoff, the Jets drove to the Cleveland 26 but were kept off the scoreboard when defensive lineman Orpheus Roye blocked Doug Brien's 43-yard field goal attempt.
Brien's 41-yard field goal with 9:06 left in the third quarter brought the
Jets to within 7-3.
Jets (Eventually) Down Browns, 10-7
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