ARLINGTON, Texas — There was no room for error for the Jets, and they had everything to play for. And just when it seemed they would fold under the pressure, they did just enough to squeak out a win at Jerry’s World.
A 40-yard field goal by Randy Bullock with 36 seconds remaining and Marcus Williams’ subsequent interception sealed a 19-16 win over the Cowboys on Saturday night at A&T Stadium. It was the fourth straight victory for the Jets (9-5). The loss officially eliminated Dallas (4-10) from postseason contention.
“Truth be told, we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. “It was a big stadium, but it wasn’t a big team, you feel me? We should have beat them way more than we did. We made that game too close. Just started off too slow on both sides of the ball.”
The Jets had ample opportunities to put points on the board but, as coach Todd Bowles said, “we shot ourselves in the foot” with too many mental errors and missed assignments (such as Dez Bryant’s 10-yard touchdown catch with 1:25 remaining in the first half).
With some much-needed help from a couple of “non-household names,” in Calvin Pace’s words, the Jets finally were able to put away the Cowboys.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was 10-for-12 for 132 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 43-yard pass down the right sideline to seldom-used receiver Kenbrell Thompkins that helped set up the winning kick by Bullock, who missed a field goal and an extra point earlier in the game.
“In Cover 2, corners get a little lazy sometimes,” Thompkins said, “And like I told Fitz early in the ballgame, I thought we had that look. If this comes again, just don’t fall asleep on it. I guess on that play he was wide awake and he threw me the ball and I made the play.”
“There’s going to be adversity throughout the game and I thought that was just a great sign for us just to show the belief is always there,” said Fitzpatrick, who suffered a gash on the bridge of his nose that was glued shut instead of stitched. “This is a winning football team and we felt like we were going to win, even when we were losing in the second half.”
With the Jets trailing 13-9, Fitzpatrick connected with Brandon Marshall on a 20-yard completion for his 93rd catch of the season, tying Al Toon’s franchise record set in 1988. Fitzpatrick then found Quincy Enunwa, who fought for every inch of a 24-yard reception. “That was the play of the game, I thought,” Fitzpatrick said. Two plays later, he hit a wide-open Eric Decker near the goal line for a 3-yard TD.
The score, which put the Jets ahead 16-13, was the 21st combined TD for Decker and Marshall, the most by any receiver tandem in franchise history.
But the Cowboys refused to go quietly. Kellen Moore — who replaced Matt Cassel minutes into the second quarter — marched the Cowboys down the field. They tied it with 1:55 remaining on Dan Bailey’s 50-yard field goal, which bounced off the right upright.
But that was plenty of time for Fitzpatrick & Co. to eke out the win.
Despite seven first-half penalties (eight total), a 36 percent completion percentage on third down (5-for-14) and 73 total rushing yards, the Jets did just enough. Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist and Darrelle Revis each had an interception before Williams closed the game out with a pick with 11 seconds left.
Said Pace: “He’s our Mariano Rivera.”
The Jets also were beset by injuries: Linebacker David Harris suffered a back contusion in the first quarter and did not return; Dee Milliner (hamstring) is day-to-day and Muhammad Wilkerson (head), Brandon Marshall (dehydration) and Decker (knee) each went to the training room but later returned. But unlike earlier in the season, the Jets found a way to close out the game.
Said Bowles: “We learned from our mistakes in the past. We grew as a team. We didn’t blow the game like we did Buffalo. We didn’t blow it like we did in New England.”
Fittingly, the Jets will have to face those same Patriots next week at MetLife Stadium.
Said Pace: “You have the G.OA.T. [greatest of all time] coming into town in Tom Brady. We have to be on point.”