CLEVELAND — The Jets were down 13 with less than two minutes to go after allowing Nick Chubb’s third rushing touchdown of the day.
It seemed over to just about everyone, but not the Jets.
It would have been over if Chubb had stopped at the 1-yard line because the Jets were out of timeouts. However, what transpired after Chubb scored was a dizzying, head-spinning, eye-popping ending that left the Jets wildly celebrating a miraculous victory.
In Robert Saleh’s headphone after Chubb’s TD, someone said the Jets still had a chance, and they indeed fought all the way back. Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes in a minute, sandwiched around Justin Hardee’s recovery of an onside kick, and Ashtyn Davis intercepted a pass to seal an improbable 31-30 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“That was crazy,” Saleh said afterward.
“I’m pretty sure I haven’t won a game in my career off an onside kick recovery, two touchdowns,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “That was pretty wild.”
Flacco, who engineered only one touchdown drive in last week’s loss to Baltimore, threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns against Cleveland. Two of them went to rookie receiver Garrett Wilson, who caught eight passes for 102 yards.
Wilson caught a 15-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left to tie the score, and the Jets took the lead on Greg Zuerlein’s extra point.
“I was really happy for him,” Flacco said of Wilson. “We’ve known that the lights aren’t too big for him, that he is already grown up and is capable of playing in this league.”
It was a perfect storm for the Jets even to get to that point. After Chubb’s touchdown, Cade York missed the extra point, which left the door open a little more for the Jets. But they needed plenty of help and good fortune — and if you’ve been following the Jets over the years, they don’t often get that.
The Browns melted down and the Jets took advantage, winning a September game for the first time since 2018. Their skid was 13 games.
“I’ve never been so happy for a missed tackle in my life,” Saleh said of the TD by Chubb. “It was our only chance.”
The Jets trailed 30-17 when Corey Davis got wide open for a 66-yard touchdown pass on their second play after Chubb’s touchdown. Davis made a double move and there was a busted coverage by the secondary. He was standing by himself and could have walked into the end zone after Flacco threw him the ball.
“It was a good route,” Davis said. “I didn’t think it was that damn good.”
There still was 1:22 left, but the Jets needed to recover an onside kick. Punter Braden Mann kicked it toward the left sideline, Will Parks drilled Amari Cooper and slapped the ball to keep it inbounds, and Hardee corralled it.
“Once it touched my hands,” Hardee said, “it wasn’t going nowhere else.”
The play happened right in front of the Jets’ sideline, and they went berserk. Saleh was right there to see it all.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Once that happened, there was no doubt we were scoring once we got the ball.”
Then it was Flacco time. The 37-year-old quarterback is a lightning rod for Jets fans who want Mike White to play while Zach Wilson recovers from his knee injury. Flacco, though, showed why he’s called “Joe Cool.”
The Jets started their final drive at their own 47. Flacco’s first pass was incomplete. He threw one to running back Michael Carter, who got out of bounds after gaining 12 yards, and the Browns were called for a neutral-zone infraction.
On first-and-5 from the Browns’ 36, Flacco passed to Tyler Conklin, who got out of bounds after a 4-yard gain. Another quick pass went to Carter for 5 yards before he went out of bounds.
“On that drive we took some little completions and got out of bounds,” Flacco said. “We did not try to rush ourselves down the field. We kind of meticulously went down the field, and when we got an opportunity, we took it and capitalized.”
The Jets had the ball at the 15 with 35 seconds remaining. After Flacco threw incomplete on first and second down, he hit Wilson for the touchdown in the middle of the end zone with 22 seconds to go.
Flacco said he had “a smile” when he heard the play call from offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
“It’s just one of our staples,” Flacco said. “Their safeties were playing pretty soft. We were trying to call a couple of things to get in the hole behind that linebacker. This just gets you there pretty fast. They were playing so soft. I was throwing that ball no matter what.”
It wasn’t over, though. The Jets needed a stop. On first down, Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran 21 yards to the Cleveland 46. On second down, Davis followed Brissett’s eyes and stepped in front of a pass intended for Cooper. On Davis’ only defensive snap of the game, he made the game-saving pick, ran it back to the 50 and slid as the Jets celebrated.
“We’re off the schneid,” an elated Saleh said. “Love the way this feels. Got to find a way to stack them up. A lot of stuff we got to clean up. Just proud of the guys because we didn’t quit. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ll take away from it.”