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Anatomy of a Touchdown Drive


If fans in Jets Nation choose to reflect on Thursday night's Jets-Eagles preseason game, they'll look back on an 8-minute, 4-second offensive drive that ended successfully in the end zone.

"We knew for sure that we were going to score a touchdown today," wide receiver Eron Riley said. "There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. It was definitely going to end today."

In their first three preseason games, the Green & White hadn't been able to reach the end zone, something that hadn't occurred for any NFL team in the last 35 years.

"I'm glad we got it," head coach Rex Ryan said. "I would've liked to have saved it to tack on next week. But it's good to score."

The drive began at the Jets' 23-yard line with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter. And right from the onset, it provided excitement. The first play featured RB Joe McKnight rushing up the middle for 18 yards to the Jets 41.

McKnight then carried on back-to-back plays for a combined 4 yards, which ended the first quarter.

The Jets were facing third-and-6 when the second quarter started. But from the shotgun, quarterback Greg McElroy calmly connected with TE Dedrick Epps for a 9-yard gain. First-and-10 and into Eagles territory.

McElroy then hit RB Terrance Ganaway for a 3-yard gain, then handed the ball off to RB Bilal Powell, who rushed for 12 yards. First-and-10 once again.

Powell's number was called on the next two plays, too. The first was an 8-yard gain to the Philly 23. Then second was a 9-yarder but a holding penalty on Matt Kroul pushed the Jets back 10 yards to the 33.

McElroy attempted to connect with Epps again on the next play but his pass was incomplete. At third-and-12, this is where many likely assumed the drive would end, perhaps with a long Nick Folk field goal try.

But McElroy and the offense had other ideas. McKnight had a big run for 11 yards. Then Ryan elected to go for it on 4th-and-1. The decision worked out as McElroy rolled to the right sideline to get just enough to keep the drive going. First and 10.

"It was almost like a meant-to-be situation it felt like," McElroy said of the importance of that conversion. "We had a missed assignment on the play. I won't say who it was. But it was a missed assignment so I just had a brief panic and just ran as fast as I possibly could for that front pylon and we were able to get it.

"We just barely got it by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin but I was glad we did. I think at that point, everybody was fired up because we had just converted and we had kind of overcome that holding penalty. So I think everyone knew that it was an opportunity for us to get down and I think we felt good that we were probably going to score."

From the Eagles 21, McKnight rushed for 1 yard, then McElroy threw a short pass to WR Royce Pollard for 5 yards. The Jets now were placed into another crucial third down situation. But like they'd proven up to that point in the drive, they wouldn't get rattled.

McElroy hit Riley with a 9-yard completion and the Jets were rewarded: First-and- goal.

"Third-down conversions are something receivers live for," Riley said. "Most of the time if it's third-and-long, the defense knows the ball is going to be thrown, so you have that up against you. As a receiver, if you make those kinds of plays, it's a good thing. I was able to make that play so it was very good to keep the drive going and help my teammates get a touchdown."

Before the next play, McElroy decided it was the appropriate time to give a message to his teammates.

"I said, 'Hey, let's just make the most of this opportunity. We don't get down here very often. Let's not take it for granted. Let's just punch it in,' " he said, adding that coordinator Tony Sparano and the offensive coaches "gave us a great call."

From the 6, McElroy play-faked, then rolled out and threw a pass that Ganaway caught and took over the goal line. The Jets sideline jumped for joy and fists went into the air. After 13 quarters and 201 minutes, 5 seconds of clock time, the Green & White had finally scored a TD.

"I don't think it was me," Ganaway said. "I think it was just a team effort. There's 11 guys out there on the field at the same time. It was a great play call and it was executed well. When things happen like that, you do what Coach asks you to do and you execute. You have great plays like that. It was a sigh of relief. We're trying to get the snowball rolling for our offense. Hopefully we did that."

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