The Jets had turned over another fourth-quarter lead Sunday at MetLife Stadium, a bad habit this season that led to three losses. But Jermaine Kearse made a big move forward to help break the curse.
The deficit against Kansas City was one point. The Jets faced third-and-7 at their 44, and Josh McCown zipped a pass to Kearse just past midfield. Steven Nelson attempted to bring him down around the 40, but Kearse broke the tackle and made it all the way to the 5.
The 51-yard catch-and-run led to McCown’s 1-yard sneak for a touchdown with 2:15 left as the Jets (5-7) claimed a 38-31 win.
Kearse caught a career-high nine passes for a career-high 157 yards, good for 17.4 per catch. His fast-moving fellow wide receiver held up his end, too. Robby Anderson caught a career-high eight passes for 107 yards, good for 13.4 per catch.
Meet an emerging dynamic duo. “I told Robby, ‘There’s no reason that we can’t be talked about as one of the top duos in this league,’ ” Kearse said. “I believe in that wholeheartedly. We’ve just got to keep working.”
It was their second straight matched set of 100-yard days. The last time this team had a pair of 100-yard receivers in back-to-back games was 50 years ago. Don Maynard and George Sauer did it against Oakland and San Diego in December 1967.
“We try to push each other,” Kearse said.
Kearse and Anderson have double-teamed for 100 catches — 51 for Kearse and 49 for Anderson, career bests for both — 1,498 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“They’re stepping up and making big plays at key times,” coach Todd Bowles said.
The Jets’ receivers weren’t thought of too highly in the preseason. After Quincy Enunwa suffered a season-ending injury, Anderson was left as the leading man. The former undrafted free agent was coming off a 42-catch, two-touchdown rookie season.
Then Kearse came from Seattle in the trade for Sheldon Richardson on Sept. 1. The sixth-year pro was coming off a 41-catch, one-touchdown season and also was a former undrafted free agent.
McCown, 38, wasn’t exactly viewed in a positive light, either.
“It’s a lot of chemistry,” Anderson said. “Proving a lot of critics wrong.”
Anderson passes some credit to Kearse. “He’s been a good mentor,” he said.
This isn’t just a tale of ability winning out for those two. Let McCown guide a behind-the-scenes tour of what’s happening under quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates while the Jets are practicing special-teams play:
“There’s other situations I’ve been in where guys are like, ‘I’m going to save my legs, I’ll see you at practice’ type of thing. Those two guys come over [on the side with me]. Coach Bates gets us together, and we talk through routes and we talk through what we see on tape and how we’re going to execute it. And I really believe that time is paying off and it’s bearing fruit right now.”