Posted: Sunday October 9, 2005 10:21PM; Updated: Monday October 10, 2005 12:39PM
If you can ignore for the moment that the Jets' win lacked style points -- New York's running game is still MIA, and rookie kicker Mike Nugent missed two field-goal attempts -- the big picture is that Testaverde's splendid relief job gave his once highly-touted team hope when things looked all but hopeless.
We've seen Edwards' Jets make those patented late-season playoff drives before, and with a defense that won't be pushed around and Testaverde on hand to save the day, who's to say New York won't still be heard from this year? Even if it did have to play four quarterbacks in the season's first five weeks.
For all its troubles so far, New York (2-3) is just a game behind first-place New England (3-2) in the AFC East. Believe it.
"When you look at our division, nobody's gone and rattled off a 5-0 start,'' Jets center Pete Kendall said. "To be 2-3 is not what we expected, but it's within striking distance. If we can get things together and put together a little run, we're still right in there.''
The Jets and Testaverde did nothing fancy against a Bucs team that looks completely different when missing rookie star running back Cadillac Williams. Edwards said New York pared down its playbook for Testaverde, and the way the Jets' coach figures it, having the ball for only 15 first-half plays actually wound up helping his still-rounding-into-football-shape quarterback.
"It's not even our offense [that we ran],'' Edwards said. "It's an offense we put together for Vinny. But these are the cards we were dealt, and we've got to play with them. He managed the game for the most part. But he made some throws, some difficult throws.''
None was bigger than the 17-yard completion to receiver Laveranues Coles on third-and-4 from the Jets 31, with 2:16 remaining. The clutch first down allowed the Jets to eat up all but the final minute of clock time before punting the trailing Bucs back to their own 12 -- a hole that ultimately proved too steep to climb out of.
"That was huge,'' Chrebet said. "That's a tough throw and a tough catch. That's the kind of thing Vinny has always done for us. He just has something.''
On this particular Sunday, he had the time of his life in a different kind of comeback role.
"It sent chills through me,'' Testaverde said of the standing ovation Jets fans gave him. "I had goose bumps going out on that field. But my expectations were to get the confidence of my teammates, so we can turn the season around.''
Just five weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, Testaverde helped the Jets start heading toward that goal.
Does any of this ever get old, Testaverde was asked?
"No, just me,'' he quipped. "It feels great. Physically I can still do it, so I'll keep doing it as long as I can.''