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Jets defeat Steelers as defense stands tall in home finale

Marcus Maye of the Jets, left, celebrates his

Marcus Maye of the Jets, left, celebrates his second-quarter interception against the Steelers with teammates Jamal Adams and Maurice Canady at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The many Jets fans who decided to sell their tickets to Steelers fans on Sunday got the best of both worlds:

They got to avoid being hopelessly outnumbered as Steelers fans — about 75 percent of the crowd — turned MetLife Stadium into a yellow-and-black, Terrible Towel-waving Heinz Field East.

And along with some extra cash in their pockets, Jets fans watching in the comfort of their living rooms got to enjoy seeing the actual home team pitch a shutout in the second half and beat the Steelers, 16-10.

Sam Ficken kicked a pair of field goals for the only scoring in the second half as the Jets won their home finale to improve to 6-9. The Steelers fell to 8-7 but remain alive for an AFC wild-card spot.

Sam Darnold threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Robby Anderson and was otherwise OK enough to support a stout Jets defense led by the return of safety Jamal Adams from injury.

“It was a dogfight out there,” said Darnold, who was 16-for-26 for 183 yards and the TD. “It was fun, though. We did what we needed to do to get a win.”

Former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell — who trolled his former club by wearing a yellow sweatshirt and black pants into the stadium — rushed 25 times for 72 yards and caught four passes for 21 yards.

The Steelers pulled rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges after a pair of first-half interceptions as the Jets built a 10-0 lead. Mason Rudolph led the Steelers to 10 points in the final 78 seconds of the half to send the game to halftime tied.

“I thought that [the Jets] rebounded well at halftime,” coach Adam Gase said. “The energy level at halftime was really good. Guys did a good job of talking through any issues that came up and went out there and executed well in the second half.”

It may have helped that Rudolph suffered a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury and was replaced by Hodges with 13:25 to go in the fourth. And the Steelers would have looked a bit different if Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t been lost for the season in Week 2.

But the Jets have had their own issues. As they finish the season next Sunday in Buffalo, Gase said it’s good for the program to have gone 5-3 at home.

Adams, who had missed the previous two games with an ankle sprain, said: “We’re not that far away, man.”

The Jets opened the scoring when Darnold hit Anderson on third-and-9 with a 23-yard touchdown pass to cap a crisp 11-play, 75-yard opening drive. Anderson split two defenders and made a leaping grab in the end zone.

The play began with Steelers defenders calling for the partisan Pittsburgh crowd to wave their towels, which they did in force (and to no good effect).

The Steelers’ first drive ended with Hodges getting blitzed by Adams and throwing an interception to linebacker Tarell Basham at the Jets’ 34. Hodges was picked off four times last week in the Steelers’ loss to the Bills.

Ficken made it 10-0 with a 54-yard field goal 2:37 into the second quarter.

Marcus Maye picked up the Jets’ second interception when he picked off a Hodges pass in traffic in the end zone with 10:21 left in the second quarter. Rudolph replaced Hodges on the next series and later guided the Steelers to their first points, a 49-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with 1:18 left in the half.

The Jets were not content to go into halftime with a 10-3 lead, and they paid for it when Darnold was sacked by T.J. Watt and fumbled. Watt recovered it at the Jets’ 41 with 28 seconds left.

On the ensuing drive, the Steelers were out of timeouts and had a first down at the 29 with nine seconds left. They had only one option if they wanted a chance at a field goal: throw a quick pass to the sideline. Or . . . they could take a shot at the end zone.

That’s what Rudolph did, and when Diontae Johnson blew past cornerback Bless Austin and found himself practically alone in the end zone, Rudolph hit him with a 29-yard touchdown pass.

The game went into the half tied at 10, and all of the Jets’ good cheer from the first quarter and most of the second had evaporated.

But the Jets took a 13-10 lead on Ficken’s 37-yard field goal with 6:30 to go in the third. He kicked a 42-yarder with 3:11 left in the fourth.

Maye helped seal the victory when he knocked away a pass intended for James Washington in the end zone on Pittsburgh’s next-to-last offensive play.

When the pass was in the air, linebacker Jordan Jenkins said, “I looked back and I thought, ‘Oh, [expletive].’ And then I saw the ball come out. I had some explicit words for the Steelers fans . . . I had a few words for them and a couple gestures that weren’t nice.”

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