The tide of the Jets' 28-21 victory over the rival Patriots was turned on a key third-down play in the second quarter. And Braylon Edwards' 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown reception from Mark Sanchez was inspired by words from former Jet Dennis Byrd.
"He spoke to us and he just told us about taking advantage of the opportunity," Edwards said at Monday night's weekly edition of "Inside the Jets." "It doesn't matter how you got here, what road you traveled. You're here. He said he would trade everything in his life, his possessions, all that he owns for one more play. He didn't say a game, he didn't say a season, he didn't say a chance to win a Super Bowl. He said one more play. That stood out to me. He really humbled me as well as the other 52 guys listening. He brought us back to reality."
Byrd played for the Jets for four seasons before suffering a career-ending neck injury that left him paralyzed and fighting to walk again. On Wednesday, Byrd sent to the team the jersey that was cut off of him on the field during that scary moment in 1992 and on Saturday he delivered to the team a heartfelt message.
And Edwards said that as he was carrying two Patriots defenders into the end zone, he was thinking about Byrd's message.
"He said in life you have your spirit and your spirit carries you through," Edwards said. "He said your spirit is what you can depend on, what you can reach down inside to find when you're trying to find those moments to be great, when you're trying to find those moments to push on, you look for that spirit. So on that play, it was an example of the spirit. I listened to his words."
Sanchez and Edwards have seemed on the same page throughout the season, as Edwards tallied 53 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. Since coming to the Green & White from the Cleveland Browns early last season, Edwards has been a major factor in helping his second-year quarterback grow into a seasoned professional.
"We have to take advantage of what he's able to do, what he's capable of doing," Edwards said. "He can move in the pocket, he's calm, he's cool, he's collected. We have to take advantage of him. We have to start him off in a rhythm. He's matured from that. Mark is a phenomenal quarterback and especially at the end of the game he makes it happen."
The young signalcaller has certainly come through in the clutch for the Jets, particularly in leading late-game scoring drives like the one set up by a toss to Edwards down the sideline in Indianapolis two weeks ago. Sanchez has also linked up longtime Jet Jerricho Cotchery, whose 58-yard scamper set up a pivotal response touchdown at New England, and Santonio Holmes, the former Steeler who has made his mark this season and returns for the second time in five weeks to the city he played in for four years.
"I saw this guy is talented, he's special," Edwards said of Holmes. "He has great hands, great feet, he runs great routes. His understanding of football, he has a great football IQ. Not everybody has that. Some people are good players but don't necessarily have a great football IQ."
Holmes is known most for his picturesque touchdown grab in the back of the end zone in the Super Bowl against the Cardinals, one of the catches for which he was named the big game's MVP. Only two seasons later Holmes is a Jet and scored a similarly scintillating touchdown catch that made the score 21-11 on Sunday. In only 12 games this year Holmes had 52 catches for 746 yards and six touchdowns. The trio at wide receiver are known as the Flight Boys and Edwards wants them to stick together long-term.
"We feed off of each other," Edwards said. "He and I have talked back and forth this season. We would love to stay here and play for the Jets as a duo. Not as a one or a two, but two ones that can get the job done. I want to be here with the Jets for a long time, but I want to be on the other side of 10. I want 10 on one side and 17 on the other and I think we could do some things."