Kellen Winslow shines in return

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
8:35
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sunday didn't just mark Darrelle Revis' return to the field.

New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow also made his return after nearly a year off.

And what a return it was for the veteran.

Winslow caught a team-high seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown to help the Jets to an 18-17 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It marked Winslow's first game since Sept. 23, 2012, when he played with the Patriots, and his first touchdown since 2011.

[+] EnlargeKellen Winslow
AP Photo/Bill KostrounKellen Winslow scored a 7-yard touchdown late in the first half to keep the Jets within reach.
"It feels really good," Winslow said. "It was real emotional before the game and I had to control myself. But it felt real good and we came out with the win."

It hasn't been smooth sailing for Winslow since he caught 77 balls for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011. The Bucs traded him to the Seattle Seahawks in May 2012, and he was cut at the end of the preseason when he wouldn't take a pay cut. He signed with the New England Patriots and played in one game last year, catching one pass for 12 yards, before the Patriots granted him his release.

The Jets took a shot on Winslow in hopes that he might rediscover the form that made him one of the league's top tight ends before his right knee became problematic. To help Winslow manage the pain, the Jets are giving him one rest day per week.

On Sunday, Winslow looked like he hadn't missed a beat, catching seven of the eight passes thrown his way. With 34 seconds left in the first half, he hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Geno Smith to slice the Buccaneers lead to 14-12.

In the fourth, he had his biggest moment of the game on a 25-yard catch that helped set up the eventual game-winning field goal. Winslow's reception put the Jets at Tampa Bay's 45-yard line, and after Smith ran for 10 yards and drew a personal foul on Tampa Bay, Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field to win the game.

"He's a tremendous receiver. We all know that," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "To make that huge catch at the end, holy cow, and then he runs with it some. [It's a] big play. He gets a touchdown catch. To say I'm surprised by it? No, I'm definitely not surprised by it."

Winslow praised Smith for the job he did, and said he wasn't surprised by the poise he showed in leading the Jets to a win. Smith appreciated having a veteran like Winslow to help him out there.

"To have a guy like that on your side is great," Smith said. "He knows how to get open in zones. He constantly got open all night. He had a really big game for us. He 's one of the main reasons why we were able to pull it out late."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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