Former Jets quarterback VInny Testaverde, left, and current starter Aaron...

Former Jets quarterback VInny Testaverde, left, and current starter Aaron Rodgers take part in the coin toss before the season opener against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 11, 2023. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Alijah Vera-Tucker did what every good offensive lineman does when his quarterback is on the ground. He went over to help scoop him up.

But when he made his way to Aaron Rodgers after a sack on the fourth play of the season and extended a helping hand to him, he was rebuffed. Then he heard the words that will define this coming season for the Jets.

“I’m not getting up.”

That’s what Vera-Tucker said Rodgers told the players who had surrounded him. That, coupled with the look on Rodgers’ face, told Vera-Tucker that whatever had happened was very serious.

“Not the ideal thing to happen,” he said.

It eventually became clear that Rodgers had injured his Achilles. Tests were scheduled for Tuesday morning to determine the extent of the damage, and the Jets were bracing for bad news as they left MetLife Stadium.

When you’re the Jets, or a fan of the forlorn franchise, that’s usually the only kind of news you get.

Mikel Pierre (right, #26) with his fellow Jets tailgaters before...

Mikel Pierre (right, #26) with his fellow Jets tailgaters before the Jets-Bills game on Monday night. Credit: Tom Rock / Newsday

The Jets managed to beat the Bills in overtime, 22-16, and for one night, the snakebit franchise managed to bite the snake back. Zach Wilson came in and led the offense to just enough points to squeak into overtime, the stifling defense created four takeaways and a three-and-out on the first possession of the extra period, and rookie Xavier Gipson returned the ensuing punt 65 yards for the winning touchdown.

It was a weird, surreal game on one of the wildest nights in MetLife Stadium history, one Rodgers might have envisioned during one of his ayahuasca trips. The evening began with fireworks, morphed into a funereal mood when Rodgers left, then rebounded into a festival of Jets resilience and fortitude.

If you ever wanted to know what being a tortured Jets fan for the last 55 or so years has been like but had only three hours to experience it all, this was the game to watch.

“A roller coaster,” wide receiver Allen Lazard called it. “As cliché as it is, that’s probably the best way to describe it.”

Who’s to say where this season goes? The Jets do have a dynamic defense and some impressive offensive playmakers. Perhaps they’ll be able to scrape together a run that ends their long playoff drought, which stands at 12 years. As of now, they’re basically last year’s team with a quarterback who may or may not be more emotionally prepared for the rigors of playing in the NFL.

It was hard to envision that success on Monday, though, even with the win. On a night when Super Bowl visions were supposed to be the overarching takeaway, they instead were taken away.

The episode felt eerily like the 1999 Jets season. It began with similar anticipation that evaporated in the regular-season opener when quarterback Vinny Testaverde, back to lead a team that had just reached the previous AFC Championship Game, snapped his Achilles in the second quarter. Those Jets muddled through the season with a string of underwhelming quarterbacks and finished 8-8 but without a playoff berth.

Testaverde was the honorary captain Monday night.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Why would you need to? Year after year, the Jets do it for us.

A few players managed to see Rodgers in the locker room at halftime. Zach Wilson said he had time for a brief exchange with his mentor. He said: “I love you, man.”

Coach Robert Saleh also met briefly with Rodgers before the quarterback left the building.

“I hurt for Aaron and how much he has invested in all of this,” he said. “Recalling the look on Aaron’s face before he went and took his knee [after he tried to get up following the sack], we pretty much knew what it was.”

Saleh remained steadfast that Rodgers’ injury does not change the ambition of this season, which was making a run at a championship. Still is.

“Keep it rolling,” he said. “From a locker room standpoint, the resilience, no one was fazed, and the way we came out in the second half on a mission . . . It was a gritty performance and I am proud of the guys.”

Of course, there are examples of teams that have overcome an early injury to their starting quarterback and rebounded. The 1999 Rams did it with Kurt Warner and the 2001 Patriots with Tom Brady. Wilson, though, doesn’t seem to be that caliber of player. At least he hasn’t shown it in most of the opportunities already afforded him during his eventful two-plus seasons with the Jets.

But on a night when the Jets were supposed to welcome their new starting quarterback, they wound up winning the game behind the one whose previous poor play had necessitated that acquisition in the first place.

“Crazy,” Wilson said of grabbing his helmet to run into the game on short notice, but he might as well have been describing the entire package that was unwrapped in front of a national Monday Night Football audience.

No, it’s not crazy.

It’s just the Jets.


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