NFL Nation: Leon Johnson

Jets do swell in do-or-die games

January, 1, 2010
1/01/10
9:42
AM ET
New York Jets FansAl Bello/Getty ImagesJets fans haven't had a Super Bowl win to celebrate in 40 years, but they can take some solace in knowing the Jets have performed well in do-or-die games to get into the playoffs.
New York Jets fans have disappointment in their DNA.

Perhaps it stands for Did Not Advance.

The Jets have maneuvered into the unlikely position of controlling their own destiny Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Meadowlands.

It's essentially a postseason play-in game for the Jets. If they win, then they're in. If they don't, their season is over.

Jets fans are predisposed to heartbreak. The Jets have done little since Joe Namath wagged his index finger as he trotted off the Orange Bowl field after winning Super Bowl III.

In a feature story that ran this week, ESPN.com senior writer Greg Garber ventured to explain the miserable existence Jets fans have endured over the past four decades.

"Realistically, the glass is half full," legendary Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko said of Sunday night's game. "But I can understand the [fans'] fatalism with all the bad cards they were dealt through this thing."

But I have some encouraging news for Jets fans.

When it comes to do-or-die games, they actually have won more than they've lost.

ESPN Stats & Information researchers Mark Simon and Mark Kelly compiled the list of finales the Jets had to win to get into the playoffs. The Jets have gone 5-3.

Dec. 20, 1981: Jets 28, Packers 3

Not only did the Jets put themselves into the playoffs by routing the Packers in the season's final game (the defense sacked Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey nine times), but they also helped the Giants clinch a playoff berth by eliminating the Packers.

[+] EnlargeChad Pennington
Al Bello/Getty ImagesChad Pennington celebrated winning the AFC East after tossing 4 TDs in a Dec. 2002 win over the Packers.
Dec. 22, 1991: Jets 23, Dolphins 20

The final game of the season was do or die for a wild-card spot. The Dolphins took the lead late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Ferrell Edmunds, but the Jets tied the game on a Raul Allegre 44-yard field goal as regulation time expired. The Jets won in sudden death. Allegre, in his first game with the Jets, made a 30-yard field goal.

Jan. 2, 1993: Oilers 24, Jets 0

The Jets were 8-5 but lost their last three games of the season, including an embarrassing defeat against the Oilers in the regular-season finale. A win in this Sunday night game (best known for Buddy Ryan punching Kevin Gilbride) would've put the Jets in the playoffs, but the loss knocked them out. This was Bruce Coslet's last game as Jets head coach.

Dec. 21, 1997: Lions 13, Jets 10

Jets fans remember this game well for a gamble by Bill Parcells, who asked Leon Johnson to throw a halfback option. Johnson's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Bryant Westbrook midway through the fourth quarter. The Lions held on for the win, keeping the Jets from a playoff spot. Barry Sanders cleared 2,000 yards rushing for the season earlier in a victory that clinched a playoff spot for the Lions.

Dec. 24, 2000: Ravens 34, Jets 20

The Jets were 9-4 and needed one victory to make the playoffs, but they lost three straight, including a deplorable loss to the Lions in Week 15. The Jets blew an early 14-0 lead to the eventual Super Bowl champs in the season finale and lost 34-20. Jermaine Lewis, returning after the tragic death of his son, led the way with two punt returns for touchdowns. Chris McAlister returned a Vinny Testaverde interception 98 yards for a score to put the Ravens ahead for good. Al Groh left the Jets after one season.

Jan. 6, 2002: Jets 24, Raiders 22

One week after John Hall missed a kick to cost the Jets a game, he nailed a 53-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining to win at Oakland and put the Jets into the postseason. A loss would've eliminated them. The Raiders would beat the Jets in the playoffs a week later.

Dec. 29, 2002: Jets 42, Packers 17

The Jets needed some help in the 1 p.m. games and got it when the Patriots rallied late to beat the Dolphins in overtime. That put the Jets in a win-and-in scenario at 4 p.m. The game was a Jets romp. Chad Pennington threw four touchdown passes, and the defense shut down Packers quarterback Brett Favre. The win made the Jets AFC East champs.

Dec. 31, 2006: Jets 23, Raiders 3

To make the playoffs, the Jets had to win at Miami in Week 16, then beat the Raiders in the season finale. The Jets managed both under rookie head coach Eric Mangini. With the loss, the Raiders clinched the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Pennington was 22 for 30 for 157 yards and a touchdown in the win.

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