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Great Moments in Jets History: Aerial Assault at the Meadowlands


Great Moments in Jets History: Aerial Assault at the Meadowlands

On September 21, 1776, one-third of New York City was scorched to the ground following the Great Fire.

On that same day, 210 years later, there was another substantial act of arson involving New York, this time at the Meadowlands where both the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins secondaries were torched all day. 

The Jets and the Dolphins set an NFL record for most combined passing yards in the 1986 game with 884.  New York, who needed a Wesley Walker touchdown catch as regulation expired to send the game into overtime, ended up winning in dramatic fashion, 51-45.  

After the Jets won the coin toss in overtime, quarterback Ken O'Brien hooked up with Walker once more, this time on a 43-yard toss just 2:35 into the extra session.  O'Brien ended up with a game-high 449 passing yards and four touchdowns, each one caught by Walker. 

"I loved it," said O'Brien.  "Being an offensive player, I like to explode."

Miami quarterback Dan Marino nearly stole the show, passing for 435 yards and a career high six-touchdown passes. The Dolphins running attack dripped out just 50 yards after gaining a total of five yards in the first half. 

"Today we were playing pretty well offensively," said Marino. "I think I played a good game, apparently it wasn't good enough."

The first quarter wasn't a precise indicator of the aerial show to come. After the opening 15 minutes, the Jets trailed just 7-3, in what appeared to be a steadily developing battle of field position.

But the tempo of the game changed entirely in the second quarter; most notably with a 42-point addition to the scoreboard. Ironically, the pacesetter had nothing to do with the record-setting airborne display.  Jets running back Johnny Hector found the end zone twice in the opening five minutes of the second stanza, which evidently woke up both teams' offenses. Heading into the locker room, O'Brien's 203 passing yards trailed Marino's total by 42 yards, though the two passers were identical with a pair of touchdown passes. 

Overall, the Jets had five receivers punch in 40 or more yards on the day, including Pro Bowler Al Toon's 111 and Rocky Klever's 64.  Walker led all pass catchers with a game-high 194 yards, 115 of which came in the second quarter on just two plays.  The first one being a 50-yard touchdown strike from O'Brien with just over four minutes left, while the second was a 65-yard bomb for six more points with 30 seconds left in the half.

Miami's Marino didn't apply such a balanced act, but he was right on the mark; "the Marks Brothers" to be exact.  He hooked up with Mark Duper for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Mark Clayton for 174 yards and a score.  Marino completed the '86 season as the NFL's leading passer in attempts, completion, yards and touchdowns. 

Marino's six touchdowns during the September classic placed him third in NFL history for most passing touchdowns in a game, while O'Brien's 449 yards were only good enough for the second most single-game passing yards in franchise annals.  Joe Namath threw for 496 yards and six touchdowns against Baltimore in 1972, while his counterpart Johnny Unitas added 376 yards.

The Jets' overtime win over Miami was part of a nine-game winning streak.  After winning ten of their first eleven, the Green & White dropped five straight before making a second round exit in the playoffs. This game, where the only offensive extinguisher was the clock itself, marked only one of two games in the decade in which the Green and White registered at least 50 points.

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