Plaxico Burress celebrates his third touchdown against the San Diego...

Plaxico Burress celebrates his third touchdown against the San Diego Chargers at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 23, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

If you thought Plaxico Burress' mostly uninspiring performance the first six weeks was tough to watch, imagine what the Jets' 34-year-old receiver thought.

Looking old and slow and very much like someone who hadn't been in the NFL the last two seasons, Burress found it even more unsettling.

"You get so tired of seeing yourself look so bad on film," he said. "It couldn't have looked any worse. It was actually feeling worse than it looked."

Burress was so despondent about his play and in such desperate need of an emotional recharge that he dug out some old game tapes from his Giants days. If he couldn't see himself perform at a high level from this year's tapes, at least he could see himself when he was one of the NFL's most dominant receivers.

"I tried to get any [tapes] I could find," he said. And what did he see from himself that hadn't been there this year? "Just playing with emotion and having fun," he said. "Being patient and just working my routes from the line of scrimmage, working my stuff and just playing."

As he watched the tapes, Burress made a promise to himself: No matter what the results were against the Chargers, he'd at least make an effort to recapture the swagger that once was his.

"I'm going to go out and play hard and let the chips fall where they may," Burress said.

Looking more like the playmaker who once was one of the NFL's most feared receivers, Burress recaptured the end-zone brilliance with three touchdown catches in the Jets' 27-21 win over the Chargers on Sunday. This was pure Burress red-zone magic, the kind of performance the Jets were counting on when they signed him after his two-year prison term on illegal weapons possession charges.

"Every morning that you wake up on Sunday, you want to be great," he said. "I said to myself, 'Just let the game come to me. Just try to be patient.' I've been forcing things a little bit. Coaches have been calling the plays, and I haven't been getting results for them. It's a tribute to them, saying they're going to stick with me."

Burress had only 14 catches and two touchdowns in his previous six games, and no TDs since Week 3. But he was Mark Sanchez's go-to guy against the Chargers, smoking cornerback Antoine Cason in single coverage and giving the Jets the kind of red-zone threat they haven't had in years. Maybe ever.

"I think Plax just got hot," Sanchez said. "I don't think it mattered who covered him. He was rolling. You've got to feed your studs when they're on fire."

Burress scored on a 3-yard pass with 7:18 to play in the second quarter, dropping to one knee after the score. You could feel the sense of relief that washed over him. "I was like, 'Man, I finally made it back to the end zone,' " he said.

He scored again with 2:57 left in the third quarter, this time on a 4-yard, back-shoulder fade that got the Jets to within 21-17. And he scored the go-ahead TD with 8:41 to play in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard catch over the middle. After the score, he walked over to the end-zone wall and celebrated with fans.

"You've just been working so hard in practice, and seeing the results is great," Burress said. "We had the exact same coverage we'd been seeing on film, and Mark just trusted me that I was going to go out and make the plays. It was a good day."

It was a very good day for a player who expects to have a lot more, even if those days were slow in coming after a four-catch, 72-yard, one-TD outing in the opener against Dallas.

Burress could have had a chance for a fourth touchdown, but on third down from the Chargers' 3 with 1:48 to play, he was taken off the field.

It seemed like an absurd decision by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Why take a red-hot receiver off the field in a situation in which he'd scored the previous three times the Jets had reached the red zone? Well, Schottenheimer gambled that the Chargers would guess the Jets would run the ball, so he called for a pass to Santonio Holmes. But Sanchez was sacked for a 9-yard loss.

Burress wasn't complaining, though. He was grateful for the TDs he did score and hopeful that there will be more to come.

"Hopefully, we can build off this," he said. "If I can have just a little impact on this offense . . . "

A little? Try immeasurable.

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