Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
It had been 30 minutes or so since the curtain closed on the latest Patriots-Jets melodrama when I asked Darrelle Revis an obvious question: When did he learn the Steelers had lost?
“I didn’t even know that they lost,” the cornerback said after a 26-20 overtime victory over the Patriots at MetLife Stadium that, combined with the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens, flung open the playoff door for the Jets. “Wow.”
Um, so this was the first Revis was hearing of it, making him presumably the last person in New Jersey, New York and New England to know?
“Yeah, well, thank you for the news,” he said. His reaction to it? “That’s pretty good. That’s pretty awesome.”
In fairness, Revis had been a little busy while everything was unfolding. But “pretty awesome” it was, both to describe the magnitude of the day’s events and the way they unfolded — in a burst of theatrics that gave the Jets a 10-5 record, a five-game winning streak and a one-game lead for an AFC wild-card berth.
Not to mention the fact that the grand finale in Buffalo will be a win-and-they’re-in showdown with current Bills and former Jets coach Rex Ryan.
“For some reason, I just knew it was going to come down to this last game versus Rex, man,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “It’s just fate.”
Much, much more to come on that in the days ahead. For now, though, it was enough to savor yet another wacky ending in a season full of them for the two local football teams.
The difference: The Jets have won most of theirs; the Giants lost more often than not.
Scoreboard-watching rarely is more stressful than it was Sunday as the Jets struggled to put away the Patriots while the Ravens did the same in Baltimore against the Steelers — one of the games the Jets needed to go their way to have a playoff shot.
In mid-afternoon, the Jets were ahead of the Patriots 17-6 and the Ravens led Pittsburgh 13-3. Not so fast. The Patriots scored on a fumble return to make it 17-13 around the same time that the Steelers trimmed their deficit to 13-10.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots were trailing 20-13 and facing a fourth-and-9 from the Jets’ 35-yard line. Meanwhile, Baltimore seemingly had taken a 26-10 lead on a 101-yard interception return.
But the Ravens’ score was erased by a penalty, the Steelers quickly scored to make it 20-17, and the Pats converted that fourth down on a 26-yard pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski, setting up a touchdown that tied it at 20-20.
Finally, the Ravens held on for an upset victory around the time that Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Quincy Enunwa for a 48-yard pass play that set up the Jets’ winning touchdown. That was soon after Patriots coach/genius Bill Belichick outsmarted himself by handing the ball to FitzMagic after the Patriots won the overtime coin toss.
Whew. That’s entertainment.
“This is a fun run,” said Fitzpatrick, a former Bill on the precipice of his first playoff berth in an 11-year career. “This has been great, the last month or so, just the growth we’ve shown as a team and to do it with the guys that we have in that locker room. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Clearly something special is going on here. In the past two games, the Jets have seen receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Ivory and receiver Kenbrell Thompkins leave with leg injuries that appeared to be potentially catastrophic — or at least game-ending. All three soon and improbably popped back up and returned to the game.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Decker said after celebrating his winning 6-yard touchdown reception with fans. “Those are the moments you cherish and remember. It’s never really the stats you remember. It’s those moments with your teammates in the locker room, the excitement.
“The way we’ve been playing the game the past five weeks is what it’s all about.”