NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Sunday, December 20, 2015, 2:20 AM
ARLINGTON, Tex. — Disaster averted.
By the skin of their teeth, the Jets escaped an improbable loss against a quarterback making his NFL debut to quite possibly keep their season alive. The Jets beat a horrible Cowboys team 19-16 in Dallas on Saturday night, but somehow played down to the level of their opponents, who benched Matt Cassel for Kellen Moore in the second quarter, for most of the contest. What a way to go down that would have been.
“Truth be told we shouldn’t have been in that situation. It was a big stadium, but it wasn’t a big team, you feel me?” Sheldon Richardson said. “We should have beaten them (by) a lot more than what we did. We made that game too close.”
Jets wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins reaches out to grab a long pass in front of Cowboys safety Byron Jones.
But the Jets did survive, and continued their fight for a playoff spot. The win on Saturday night extended the Jets’ winning streak to four games.
“This time we grew as a team,” Todd Bowles said. “We didn’t blow the game like we did (against) Buffalo, we didn’t blow it like we did in New England. We continued on what we learned from the Giants and came out and played a good second half.”
With the victory, the Jets (9-5) improve their odds of reaching the playoffs but still do not control their own destiny; they need the Steelers or Chiefs to lose a game or for several less likely scenarios to play out elsewhere. For the moment, Gang Green technically owns the first wild card spot in the AFC, a game up on Kansas City and Pittsburgh.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chris Ivory celebrate a fourth quarter touchdown as Jets hang on to beat Cowboys.
Ryan Fitzpatrick did not play well for most of Saturday’s game, and he threw his first interception since Week 11. But, while bleeding from the ridge of his nose after suffering a cut in the second quarter, the quarterback came up with a couple of huge passes in the clutch to Quincy Enunwa and Kenbrell Thompkins. Those were critical throws to the Jets’ 10-fourth quarter points in the victory.
“Big time, man,” Calvin Pace said. “He’s a big-time player. I’m hoping he got enough votes for our team MVP because he deserves it.”
Fitzpatrick completed 26 of 39 passes for 299 yards, a touchdown and interception in the win.
Cassel (3-for-8, 37 yards, 1 interception) was so bad that he had to be subbed out in the second quarter for Moore, a fourth-year quarterback who had never played in an NFL game before. And on his second pass attempt of his career he threw an interception to Marcus Gilchrist — the first of three picks by Moore.
But Moore got the ball back with just under two minutes left in the half, which normally wouldn’t have worried the Jets but ended up coming back to bite them. After a completion to Terrance Williams and a questionable horse collar penalty on Calvin Pace, the Cowboys all of a sudden had the ball on the Jets’ 26-yard line. And a couple of plays later, Moore threw a quick pass to Dez Bryant, who juked his way past Darrelle Revis for a 10-yard touchdown. That, shockingly, gave the Cowboys a 10-9 lead at halftime.
In the fourth quarter, down 13-9, the Jets finally got their act together on offense and regained the lead. Fitzpatrick led a nine-play, 70-yard drive that included a huge 24-yard third-down completion to Enunwa to put the Jets near the goal line.
“It was a horrible pass, it was like end over end. He made a great catch,” Fitzpatrick said. “That was the play of the game right there, I thought.”
Fitzpatrick followed that up with a three-yard TD pass to Eric Decker to put the Jets ahead 16-13 with 8:58 left in the ballgame.
Cowboys backup QB Kellen Moore and Darren McFadden celebrate a touchdown in the second quarter.
But Moore led his team back down the field and put his team in position to kick the tying field goal. And that they did, as Dan Bailey knocked a 50-yarder in off the right upright to tie the contest at 16 apiece with 1:55 remaining.
And then, after avoiding a Fitzpatrick near-fumble, the quarterback threw his biggest pass of the day on a deep ball to Thompkins that went 43 yards and put the Jets in field goal range with 53 seconds left. With 35 seconds left in the game, Bullock was good from 40 yards out to put the Jets ahead 19-16.
Marcus Williams caught a desperation heave by Moore to ice the game for Gang Green.
Despite the Jets getting the win in Dallas, they clearly are going to have to be better if they are going to stand a chance against the Patriots next week. With the Jets quite possibly needing to win out to make the playoffs, that game will obviously be crucial for their postseason hopes.
“We got the GOAT coming in to town. Tom Brady,” Pace said. “So we’ve got to be on point. We know what type of challenges he brings to us.”