Some tried to downplay the Jets-Giants "rivalry" angle, but the two teams apparently didn't get the memo with a closely played game and several scuffles and penalties fitting of a division get-together.
But one thing necessary for a true NFL rivalry is some big games that mean something with a Green & White win at the end. And the Jets, after five consecutive losses to their stadium mates, finally responded with a remarkable comeback from a 20-10 deficit with less than five minutes left in regulation to a stunning 23-20 overtime triumph that keeps them rolling in the AFC Wild Card chase.
The Jets tied it on Ryan Fitzpatrick's 9-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall with 27 seconds left in regulation, went ahead on Randy Bullock's 31-yard field goal on the first drive of OT, then nailed down the "W" when the Giants' Josh Brown was wide left on a retying 48-yard try.
More important, the Green & White scraped through with some up-and-down play and missing players here and there to rise to 7-5 on the season and remain in the thick of the AFC playoff picture, while the Giants fell to 5-7 in the NFC East.
In Addition to Annual Preseason Matchups Dating Back to the Yale Bowl in 1969, the Jets & Giants Have Met 12 Times During the Regular Season, Most Recently on Dec. 24, 2011
"It was a good win," said head coach Todd Bowles. "Usually in the games we've been winning, we've been ahead and the fourth quarter has been nice and easy. So for us to come from behind and show some grit during the season, that's the mark of a good team. We finally got to that point and I'm just happy it was today."
"I just think we showed a lot of maturity today," said Fitzpatrick, who completed 36 of 50 passes for 390 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. "It was a key buzz word of the week, but even at the end of the game Todd saying a few things to me on the sideline about the situation we were in and getting my head in the right spot, I thought that was really helpful for me today."
It was only the second overtime in the 13-game Jets-Giants, yes, rivalry, with the Jets winning again, similar to their 26-20 win over the Giants at the Yale Bowl in 1974.
Here are nine observations on the flow of this game between Gang Green & Big Blue for the first 60 minutes before the OT success:
1. Ivory's Drive
Chris Ivory had a very productive second drive as the Jets moved 78 yards to Randy Bullock's 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. Ivory had runs of 11, 6 and 20 yards and a 9-yard reception. But from there his profile was reduced and included a lost fumble (see No. 3). He did add a 6-yard reception and a 6-yard run to close the first half, lifting him over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the season.
2. Not Special
The Jets' punt cover team, which yielded an 89-yard return score by the Eagles' Darren Sproles in Week 3, got bit again, this time on Dwayne Harris' 80-yard return for a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. It was the first PR TD in Jets-Giants regular-season history and was secured when Harris leaped past diving punter Ryan Quigley and out of the grasp of Bilal Powell for the score.
3. First-and-Goal Wall
It's not only the Jet's red zone defense but their first-and-goal D that's been fairly impenetrable. After an Ivory fumble and a James Carpenter unnecessary roughness set the Giants up at the Jets 10, the Green & White defense limited the damage to a Brown field goal and a 10-3 lead. It was the 11th time in 19 first-and-goal situations this year that the Jets had held the opposition without a TD.
4. Powell ... Pow!
The Jets, despite spotty protection for Fitzpatrick, worked the ball toward the Giants' end before facing a third-and-15 from the 25. The call was a short toss to Powell, an inside cut, maneuvering through the secondary and skipping into the end zone for the first receiving TD of his career and Fitzpatrick's 21st scoring strike of the season. The Jets had tied it at 10-10 and Powell was on his way to career highs of eight catches and 91 yards. "He stepped up bigtime," Fitzpatrick said. "He had a great game for us not only on the touchdown catch but with the way he runs and hits the hole and some of those catches out of the backfield. He did a great job for us."
Odell Beckham did it a few times in this game. In the first quarter he made an on-the-run one-handed reception for 22 yards. The Jets D rebounded with a Calvin Pryor blitz PD in the backfield, an Antonio Cromartie breakup downfield, and a punt on the blue side of the 50. But the Green & White didn't recover from a 72-yard Manning-to-Beckham hookup, the last 63 coming after the catch for a TD to put the Giants back on top, 17-10, with 2:13 to go in the half. He finished with six catches for 149 yards but also was banged around by the Jets defense.
6. Another Pryor Engagement
Pryor came back with another big hit — he's been making that a regular occurrence — with a rocking of Beckham, who had his hands on another TD pass in the end zone. Odell lost it for an incompletion and the Jets' red zone defense held it together again to force another Brown field goal. But the trend at the half, with the Giants opening a 20-10 edge, wasn't in a good direction for the visitors.
Photos from Sunday's Road Game at MetLife Stadium
7. Third-Quarter Lull
The Green & White offense seemed lively enough in spurts in gaining 217 first-half yards. But the third frame was a washout as Fitzpatrick and Co. could move the ball only 29 yards. And when they were about to get the ball back on a punt from near midfield late in the third quarter...
8. Rontez Giveth, Rontez Taketh Away
The special teams committed another goof when Rontez Miles jumped offside just before Brad Wing's punt on fourth-and-4 from the Jets 43. That enabled Big Blue to turn that drive into a monster 17-play, 67-yard, 11:21 march into the Jets red zone. "I was like, 'Man, that was me. I got you, I'll make up for it,' " Miles told his teammates. "I didn't expect to get an interception or anything like that."
That's just what he got. Playing after Pryor left the game with a stinger, Miles atoned bigtime with his first pro pick when the Giants went for it on fourth-and-2 from the 4. Yet the visitors still needed 10 points in the last 8:42 of regulation just to tie it ...
9. Keeping Hope Alive
And they got it. The Jets drove with a sense of urgency 80 yards on 11 plays to the Giants 6. But the No. 1 red zone offense couldn't punch it in and settled for Bullock's second 24-yard field goal with 4:28 to play to make it a one-score game at 20-13. Bullock improved to 5-for-5 on FGs since taking over the kicking duties from Nick Folk.
Then they got the ball back after Eric Decker's punt fair catch at their 29 with 2:40 to play and all three timeouts left. This drive went 71 yards on 10 plays, was spurred along by Fitzpatrick's fourth-and-6 keeper for 15 yards and crowned on the Fitz toss to Marshall for his 10th catch of the game (he finished with 12 for 131) and his 10th TD grab of the season.
"I wasn't thinking," Marshall said of the drive leading to his score. "We still got time on the clock, we've got to believe. It's been that way all year with this team. We never give up."