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Morton runs two kickoffs back for scores

9/9/2002

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Chad Morton didn't want to look back
to see if anyone was chasing him. Now the New York Jets can look
forward after squeaking out a dramatic victory to open their
season.

Drew Bledsoe has brought offense to the Bills, but do they have enough defense to contend for a playoff spot?
I think so. Buffalo's defense is underrated and of the no-name variety, but it's a good D, with strong cornerbacks. Despite the loss today, Bills' fans can be optimistic about their team's chances this season.

Eric Allen played 14 seasons in the NFL for the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Morton ran back two kickoffs, including a 96-yarder to start
overtime, lifting the Jets to a 37-31 victory over Buffalo on
Sunday and spoiling Drew Bledsoe's debut with the Bills.

He became just the second player in NFL history to return an
overtime kickoff for a touchdown. On Nov. 27, 1980, Chicago's Dave Williams took the opening OT kickoff for a score, leading the Bears
past the Detroit Lions 23-17.

"I knew it was going to be a foot race. I didn't know if I had
enough gas to make it to the end zone,'' Morton said. "I was
thinking to myself, 'Please, don't get caught. ... But I made it
into the end zone. Game over.''

Morton caught Mike Hollis' kickoff along the right sideline and
cut toward the middle of the field. He broke a tackle at the 30,
then outran Shawn Bryson into the end zone.

He is the first player in NFL history to return a kickoff for a
score in regulation and overtime. He also became the first Jets
player and fifth player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for
scores. New Orleans' Tyrone Hughes was the last player to run back
two kickoffs for scores, accomplishing the feat in 1994.

After running back a 98-yarder -- the third-longest in franchise
history -- in the second quarter, Morton had enough in him for one
more big return. It came after Bledsoe forced overtime by hitting
Eric Moulds with a 29-yard TD pass with 26 seconds remaining.

The Jets won even though Curtis Martin left the game at halftime
with a sprained left ankle, and Vinny Testaverde played
inconsistently.

Testaverde finished 24-of-30 for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Anthony Becht, with a 1-yard reception, and Wayne Chrebet, with an
18-yarder, also scored for the Jets.

Bledsoe, acquired to spark the Bills offense in a deal with New
England last April, finished 26-of-39 for 271 yards, with a
touchdown and two interceptions.

"It was very surreal,'' Bledsoe said, as he watched the game
end from the sideline. "It took me a while to settle down.''

Buffalo's Travis Henry rushed for a career-high 149 yards and
three touchdowns.

The close finish should not have come as a surprise. The two
teams' previous three meetings were decided by six points or less.

Jets coach Herman Edwards overlooked the sloppy performance that
included the Jets being called for 10 penalties, including two
roughing the kicker calls. Edwards was impressed by something else.

"Their will to win,'' Edwards said. "That is something you
don't measure. It's something that is inside. The guys just kept
fighting.''

The Jets overcame a 10-0 deficit in the first half, and rallied
back after the Bills took a 24-20 lead on Henry's 2-yard plunge
late in the third quarter.

Special teams continue to haunt the Bills, going back to the
Music City Miracle in the 1999 AFC wild-card playoff loss to
Tennessee. That's when Titans Frank Wycheck threw a lateral pass
across the field to Kevin Dyson, and he scampered 75 yards for a
22-16 victory as time ran out.

Sunday, the Bills allowed 300 yards in returns. They also
allowed Jason Glenn's blocked punt, which led to Hall's 33-yard
field goal that cut Buffalo's lead to 24-23 early in the fourth
quarter.

"It was the worst day I've ever experienced and ultimately it's
our responsibility as a special teams group,'' Bills special teams
coach Danny Smith said. "I apologize to our football team. I
apologize to the Buffalo Bills organization. I apologize to the
fans. If we had done anything today, we would've won the football
game.''

Game notes
Jets kicker John Hall hit three field goals, including a
45-yarder, but missed a 48-yard attempt wide right early in the
fourth quarter. ... Hollis hit a 52-yard attempt for the Bills, but
missed a 50-yarder to the right. ... The Jets offense sputtered
through most of the first half but they led 14-10 despite managing
just one first down.