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Jets win thriller in San Diego

Just imagine. On Saturday night there was a crucial mistake committed by a Jet in a playoff game that won't live in infamy as another sad "Same Old Jets" turning-point moment.<p>

Just imagine. On Saturday night there was a crucial mistake committed by a Jet in a playoff game that won't live in infamy as another sad "Same Old Jets" turning-point moment. Eric Barton's late hit on San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter might only inspire a handful of angry calls to New York's sports radio stations this coming week.

Barton's ill-advised play will certainly not be remembered in the same breath as Mark Gastineau's game-turning late hit on Bernie Kosar in the Jets' ill-fated playoff game at Cleveland in January of 1987.

That's because Barton's boo-boo was redeemed by Doug Brien's 28-yard field goal with 0:05 remaining in overtime that pushed the Jets to a 20-17 Wild Card playoff victory over the favored host Chargers and a date next weekend on the road against the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I needed guys to dig me out of this and they did," Barton said afterwards, obviously relieved by Brien's heroics.

The Jets' victory, you see, was one of second chances.

Gang Green's defense had already begun a victory celebration when Brees' fourth down pass fell incomplete in their end zone with 24 seconds left in regulation and the Jets leading 17-10. But the Jets defenders didn't see that Barton, pressuring Brees on a blitz, had clubbed the quarterback on the helmet with his right hand after the pass was thrown.

The penalty gave the Chargers new life that Brees converted into a game-tying 1-yard TD pass to tight end Antonio Gates and leading to the overtime period.

Then the football gods turned their collective backs on the Chargers. On the host's second possession of OT, rookie kicker Nate Kaeding was wide right on a potential game-winning 40-yard field goal attempt.

Jets quarterback Chad Pennington drove his team downfield to set up Brien's game-winner, completing an 18-yard pass to Santana Moss and a 12-yarder to Justin McCareins. Reserve running back LaMont Jordan broke loose on a 19-yard run to put Brien in range.

After concluding the regular season with only two touchdown drives in two games, Pennington threw a pair of touchdown passes, including a season-long 47-yarder to Moss. He finished the night completing 23 of 33 for 279 yards.

Brien had a particularly bizarre evening, missing a 33-yard field goal on the Jets first drive of the night, barely making an extra point, and converting a 42-yarder in the third quarter that hit the right upright before bouncing on and over the crossbar. The field goal gave Gang Green a 17-7 lead.

The Jets also dodged bullets on consecutive plays in the third quarter – administrative miscues, if you will -- that saw them line up only 10 men on defense on two consecutive plays. San Diego, however, failed to capitalize on the mismatch.

And, aside from Barton's late hit, the only other major lapse in poise occurred on the Jets sideline, when head coach Herman Edwards and running backs coach Bishop Harris had to be separated by fullback Jerald Sowell after the duo became engaged in a heated second-half discussion.

"It was a family dispute," said Edwards after the game.

And now the Jets family is on to the second round of the playoffs.


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