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OL' FAVRE STRUGGLES AGAIN

Comments: 1Read Comments Leave a Comment SCRAMBLIN' MAN: Brett Favre rumbles 27 yards on a bootleg in the first quarter of the Jets' 31-27 come-from-behind victory over the Bills yesterday at the Meadowlands.

Last updated: 7:08 am

December 15, 2008

Posted: 2:25 am

December 15, 2008

THE oldest trick play in the book was called for the oldest guy on the field, completely bamboozling the Bills.

"No," said ol' bootlegger Brett Favre, asked if, after faking a handoff to Thomas JonesThomas Jones and putting the ball on his hip, he was amazed to see nobody but offensive tackle Wayne Hunter in front of him.

"Were you as amazed as me we ran it?" he said. "I really thought I was going to score. Twenty yards down there I realized I was slower than I thought."

Favre could have run all day on that play - and seemingly it took him all day to run 27 yards to the 14, where time and Leodis McKelvin ran the ancient quarterback down.

Jones picked up the slack for Favre and scored from the 2-yard line to give the JetsNew York Jets a 7-0 lead. The next time down the field, Jerricho CotcheryJerricho Cotchery took a Favre pass in from the 11 to give the Jets a 14-3 edge, but after those two quick scores, Favre couldn't keep the offense moving.

In the second half, the NFL's all-time leader in passing yardage donned The Emperor's Clothes in the Jets' gift-wrapped 31-27 victory over the Bills yesterday at the Meadowlands. The Jets offense scored three points in the final 30 minutes, a field goal after a Hank Poteat interception had set them up at the Buffalo 20.

That was just the first of three separate three-and-outs in the quarter, not including a four-and-out when the Jets were trying to run out the clock and not counting a third-quarter Terrence McGee interception in which Cotchery was underthrown by five yards.

"I had him [but] underthrew it," Favre said. "Maybe I don't have the arm I used to have. I don't know."

With two regular-season games remaining and the Jets still tied for first place in the AFC East, it's scary to think Favre, who completed just five of 14 passes in the second half, would be the last to know about any decrease in arm strength.

After getting nowhere the past two weeks with dinks and dunks, the Jets opened it up on the first play. Laveranues Coles caught passes of 22 and 20 yards. David Clowney made a nifty one-handed grab for 27, and Dustin Keller and Chris Baker had completions of 20 and 19, respectively.

Just as Favre had looked good as ever in the first half of the NFC Championship game against the Giants last season, he died in the second half. There is a reason old people move to Florida. The cold doesn't suit them.

The Jets pulled out a miracle anyway, but it was because of the Bills' brain-lock, not because of the quarterback. Watching Favre throwing footballs behind Keller at midfield, too high to Leon Washington from the Jets' goal line, the Jets will need more help from foes to overcome quarterbacking like this.

A first-half interception off Coles wasn't Favre's fault, but the Jets' 4-for-11 conversions on third down, following a 1-for-10 last week, comes back to the quarterback. So does a third straight game with a passer rating in the 60s.

"As you get older, you realize the only stat that matters is wins and losses," Favre said. "We're 9-5. It doesn't have an asterisk."

It only, on top of bad back-to-back losses, had the feel of a last-minute call from the governor for a stay of execution. It's no commutation. jay.greenberg@nypost.com

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Shaun Ellis, Jets flying high on fumble return in 31-27 win over Bills

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Sunday, December 14th 2008, 6:35 PM

Antonelli/News

Shaun Ellis (92) returns a fumble for a touchdown as the Jets escape with a narrow victory.

Sabo/News

Marshawn Lynch plagues Jets all day ...

Antonelli/News

... but Brett Favre & Co. manage to fight off the onslaught with some late heroics.

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The "same old" ghosts were ready to emerge from the grave, as they often do this time of year. The stadium was eerily silent, except for the sound of another promising season shattering into a thousand pieces. On the Jets' sideline, the mood was "darker than dark," Jerricho Cotchery would say later. "Everything was flashing before your eyes" - like it does the moment before impact.

Suddenly . . . hope.

"Are they throwing the ball?" an incredulous Damien Woody said to himself on the Jets' sideline, a thought shared by disbelieving eyes everywhere.

Defying logic, Bills coach Dick Jauron called a bootleg pass with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter Sunday at the Meadowlands, and what happened over the next 12 seconds may have altered the direction of two franchises. The Jets, known for a lifetime of bad luck, made a once-in-a-lifetime play to pull out a miracle 31-27 victory.

The images will live forever: Abram Elam's backside blitz. His strip-sack on J.P. Losman. The fumble. The mad scramble for the loose ball at the 18. Shaun Ellis' scoop. His bobble. The lucky bounce at the 11. His re-scoop. His run for the end zone, 11 yards of Earl Campbell - 33 feet of game-turning, playoff-preserving, butt-saving poetry.

"Who knows if, at the end, we look back and say, 'That could be one of those plays that catapulted us into something great,'" Brett Favre said.

Ellis' 11-yard return for a touchdown - the first of his career - transformed an unthinkable loss into an explainable victory, keeping the Jets (9-5) in a first-place tie with the Dolphins and Patriots. They blew an 11-point lead and overcame two deficits to beat the free-falling Bills (6-8), snapping a two-game losing streak and avoiding what would've been a collapse for the ages.

"It saved the game," said Ellis, who was arrested three weeks ago on a marijuana charge. "I don't know about the season yet."

It was the Jets' version of The Fumble, with Ellis playing the role of Herm Edwards and Losman impersonating Joe Pisarcik. And Jauron, his job already rumored to be in jeopardy, could end up being John McVay - unemployed.

"As a Jet, it was the most memorable play I've ever seen," said guard Brandon Moore, a Jet since 2002.

Tight end Chris Baker, who arrived the same year, called it "the biggest surprise win since I've been here."

How about a snappy nickname? The Immaculate Return?

"How about, 'Lucky as Hell,'?" Woody interjected.

Lucky, indeed.

Favre, who asked offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to open up the offense, got his wish and threw two interceptions that led to 10 points for the Bills. The defense, which allowed a season-high 187 rushing yards, was booed off the field after Fred Jackson carried five players into the end zone on an 11-yard, go-ahead touchdown with 5:30 remaining in the game. The Jets also made several mistakes on special teams.

Basically, they did everything possible to lose. Afterward, they talked about fate and smiling football gods, the same gods that have tortured the Jets for . . . oh, 40 years.

"There were several things on that play that make you scratch your head, but I'm just glad it was in our favor," said Favre (17-for-30, 207 yards), whose signature moments were an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cotchery and a 27-yard naked bootleg that set up Thomas Jones' 2-yard scoring run.

Eric Mangini, who watched his team blow a 14-3 lead, didn't get caught up in the giddiness of the miracle win, saying with a straight face, "I was really happy. We forced a fumble in a four-minute drive, pick it up and scored a touchdown. That's pretty good."

A loss would've been a crippling blow to the Jets' playoff chances and would've put Mangini on the hot seat. Considering the AFC landscape, it appears they will have to win the AFC East to qualify. The Jets control their destiny, meaning they capture the division with wins over the Seahawks and Dolphins.

They should send a thank-you note to Jauron. With Marshawn Lynch (127 rushing yards) ripping off chunks of yardage against the Jets' suddenly vulnerable run defense, Jauron called a pass on a second-and-5 from his 27. Several Jets said they were stunned.

They expected the Bills to run right or call a bootleg pass to the left - one first down probably would've iced it - so they sent Elam on a blitz from the blind side.

The scatter-armed Losman, who started for the injured Trent Edwards and threw three fourth-quarter interceptions (two after Ellis' TD), rolled to his right. He was supposed to throw to Corey McIntyre, but the fullback got caught in traffic. At that point, Losman was supposed to throw it away, but he held on a beat too long. Elam, a Bills killer, swooped in from behind.

"I just wanted to stay under control," Elam said. "If I didn't stay under control, he could've given me a move and slipped away."

Ball out. Bryan Thomas dived - and missed. Ellis grabbed it once, twice and took off, running over center Duke Preston.

"I don't think he knew what direction he was supposed to go," cracked Laveranues Coles.

Ellis ran straight into Jets' lore.

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Puff of luck allows Jets to exhale after Shaun Ellis' touchdown run

Sunday, December 14th 2008, 7:35 PM

Kostroun/AP

Shaun Ellis runs into the end zone after a fumble recovery that may have saved the Jets' season.

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Mickey Mantle knocked homers with a hangover. Doc Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid. And now, Shaun Ellis has demonstrated an equally naughty, unconventional method leading up to a breakthrough performance:

It apparently is very helpful for an athlete to get charged with possession of marijuana in the middle of a playoff run.

There he was Sunday, a 290-pound defensive end picking up a loose football late in the fourth quarter as if it were a late-night snack and galumphing on a hallucinatory jaunt into the end zone. None of it made sense - from the bizarre play-action rollout call by the Bills' (not for long) coach, Dick Jauron, to the sight of Ellis knocking down would-be tacklers and reaching for a decisive touchdown.

Don't bogart that football.

"It just popped up to me," Ellis said of the ball, fumbled away by J.P. Losman after the hit by Abram Elam. "It kind of went away and came back to me."

It was a very silly play from start to finish and it just might have rescued a season for the undeserving Jets, who basically stunk out the joint after the first quarter. There is no way, no how, that the Bills should have lost this game, 31-27. But they did, and now the Jets are still tied for first in the AFC East with two games left.

For MeShaunda Pizarrur Ellis, this was redemption of the most timely sort. He had been a great distraction these past couple of weeks, after he was charged with speeding and possession in Hanover Township. The Jets had been quietly putting together this nice season, a quiet alternative to Burress-ville, and suddenly they were reeling on a two-game losing streak and ducking to avoid questions about police investigations.

Ellis received his $10,000 fine from the Jets, and then there he was Sunday against the Bills, failing to mount much of a pass rush all game on Losman. There was no pressure on the quarterback, who had far too much time to dissect the Jets' secondary.

It might have been a disastrous defeat for the Jets and another embarrassment for Ellis. But then fate, the clock and Jauron intervened. The Bills' coach saw there was 2:06 left in the game and figured the clock would stop after the next play, regardless whether it was a run or a pass. He called for the pass on second-and-5, even though Marshawn Lynch had been torching them for six yards per carry.

The football squirted loose. The next thing anyone knew, the Jets were 9-5.

"Like most people, I'm thinking they're going to run the clock out," Brett Favre said. "All I could say was, 'Wow.' A lot of things on that play made you say, 'Wow.' There were several things on that play that made you scratch your head. That could be one of those plays that catapulted us into something great."

The Jets had programmed this one play just right. They'd expected the Bills to run to the left or roll out to the right. They came hard on a blitz designed to stop either call. Losman searched for his fullback short, couldn't find him. Then came Elam. Then came Ellis. There was Ellis.

Ellis could have just fallen on the ball, played it safe. A pop psychologist might suggest that is exactly what Ellis would have done on other occasions, if he didn't need to perform something special and prove to teammates his own worth.

Instead, Ellis scooped up the ball and lectured himself concisely, "Don't fumble it."

"It saved the game," Ellis said. "I don't know about the season yet."

If the Jets had lost this game, they'd be 8-6, a game out of first and on a three-game losing streak. The loss to Buffalo, a division opponent, would also have adversely affected the tiebreak scenarios.

So yes, that play saved the season - for now. You can thank Jauron and Ellis and maybe even that little misadventure in Hanover that led Ellis to test his own limits.

If you think that's a stretch, you should have seen Ellis reach for the end zone.

He was far out on the 11-yard line, and then he was smoking toward the goal line.

No more of these jokes, we promise. There might have been many more, but the Jets won a big one, ugly.

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Brett Favre, Jets bring back air attack in win over Bills

BY KRISTIE ACKERT

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Sunday, December 14th 2008, 9:25 PM

Antonelli/News

Brett Favre runs for a big here in the first half, but the quarterback was happy about throwing the ball.

Brett Favre got what he wanted, at least for a while. After two straight losses with the offense struggling, the Jets' quarterback lobbied offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to let him open up and add more downfield passes to the game plan.

Sunday, Favre got his chance. He started off strong but fizzled. He also threw two interceptions that led to 10 Bills points.

He opened the 31-27 win over the Bills by connecting with wide receiver Laveranues Coles for 22 yards, his longest in-the-air pass in three weeks. That play set up the Jets' first touchdown and seemed to get their offense immediately on track.

"We came out this week wanting to get me more involved earlier in the game, to see if I could get the momentum going," said Coles, who caught five passes for 82 yards Sunday. "For us offensively, I did a pretty good job of doing that and Favre did a pretty good job of getting me the ball."

Sunday wasn't exactly the mentality the Jets displayed during their five-game winning streak, but it was a lot different than the last two games when Favre went without a touchdown pass. Sunday, Favre passed for 207 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, completing 17 of 30 attempts. Favre's longest pass of the day was a 26-yarder, wide receiver David Clowney's first NFL reception.

"It was definitely a step forward for our offense," said Jerricho Cotchery, who caught four passes for 34 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown. "We definitely got back in sync."

But after putting on an aerial exhibition in the first half to roll up a 21-17 lead, the Jets' passing fancy waned after intermission. In the second half, Favre completed five of 13 passes for 58 yards and one of his picks. He never found Coles.

"The bottom line is first half we converted," Favre said. "In the second half, we had opportunities."

Those were missed opportunities, Coles obviously felt.

"I don't mope and groan about not getting the football. That's not what I feel a teammate should be about," said Coles. "I think it's about the team. It's not something I would come forward, even if I was unhappy, and say I'm not happy, because that's not something for the public to know about.

"At this point, it's not about me. If I felt like I was the only person that could make plays then maybe I would gripe, but I think we have too many playmakers on this team."

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Dick Jauron takes hit for Bills' fold against Jets on big fumble

BY KRISTIE ACKERT

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Sunday, December 14th 2008, 9:35 PM

With his job in jeopardy and even with a clear misplay by his quarterback, Bills coach Dick Jauron took the blame for Sunday's 31-27 loss to the Jets. Jauron took full responsibility for calling the play-action pass that led to Shaun Ellis' game-winning fumble return.

"Out of a number of heartbreaking losses, that was the worst to this point," a red-eyed Jauron said. "Clearly, the responsibility for the call when we play-action passed at 2:06 is mine. That goes right on me."

With a three-point lead, the Bills only needed to run down the clock to claim their first AFC East win and salvage something positive from a disappointing season while putting the Jets' playoff hopes in jeopardy. Running back Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 127 yards Sunday, had spent all afternoon breaking tackles, mowing down the Jet defense and eating up the clock.

The Jets had prepared for another run or a rollout pass on second-and-5. Jauron told offensive coordinator Turk Schonert to have quarterback J.P. Losman make a short, quick pass to the fullback or quickly get rid of the ball.

"It turned out to be one of those times in the game that's pretty good for a pass, because it's right before the two-minute mark, so if it's incomplete, you don't give them any more time," Jauron said. "The clock was stopped and no matter what, they are stacked in the box, playing the run. I thought it was a good time, it just ended up backfiring on us."

It backfired when instead of quickly dumping the ball, Losman rolled out of the pocket. Abram Elam came around the corner and was able to strip the ball as he sacked Losman. The ball squirted loose, Ellis picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.

"It's tough, if it's not there, you throw it away," Losman said, explaining the play. "It's basically all you can do. We don't like to take sacks in those situations. We should've thrown the ball quickly, as soon as our flat route wasn't there. Either way, it's a tough situation, The call was made and I have to hold onto the ball."

Jauron said he did not blame Losman.

As he left the podium Sunday, Jauron said that despite the rumblings that his job was in jeopardy, he had no concerns about taking the blame.

"It backfired clearly and it caused us to lose the game," Jauron said. "The guys fought hard. They made enough plays to win that football game. I just didn't help them with that call."

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Jets' defense airs beefs

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Sunday, December 14th 2008, 9:15 PM

Cracks are starting to show in the Jets' defense - and that's not simply a reference to their recent problems against the run.

Every player from the beleaguered defensive unit met last Thursday night at a New Jersey steakhouse for what amounted to a gripe session. CB Darrelle Revis called it a productive session, but, according to a source, things got tense again Saturday night at the team hotel.

At the hotel, in a final film review for yesterday's game against the Bills, the defensive backs seemed confused on certain coverage checks and that led to disagreements. As it turned out, the secondary played well in the 31-27 win, intercepting three passes and holding fill-in QB J.P. Losman to 148 yards.

The Jets have a new problem. Their once-stout run defense allowed a season-high 187 yards. The low point was Fred Jackson's 11-yard TD run, a rugby scrum in which he carried several defenders into the end zone. The Bills hadn't scored a TD in their previous two games.

The "gripe" session didn't produce the desired results - or did it?

"We wanted to know how people felt about the season," said Revis, who spoke at the dinner, along with Shaun Ellis, Kerry Rhodes and Calvin Pace. "A lot of guys stood up and said what they had to say, and we all got closer."

GHOLSTON DISAPPEARS: The Jets swallowed hard and finally benched OLB Vernon Gholston, their disappointing first-round draft pick. He was declared inactive for the first time, a damning reflection on Gholston, considering their recent pass-rushing problems.

"We switched some things on special teams, with Brad Smith out, which shuffled the deck a bit," Eric Mangini said. "We felt the group that we had was going to give us the best chance, so he was the odd-man out."

Smith (concussion), CB Drew Coleman and CB David Barrett were among the inactives. Smith was replaced by WR David Clowney, who made a one-handed catch for 26 yards in his NFL debut. TE Bubba Franks (remember him?) played for the first time in seven games.

RUSHING TO RECORDS: RB Thomas Jones scored on a 2-yard run, setting the franchise record for rushing TDs (13) and total TDs (15). It was his eighth straight game with a TD, another franchise mark. He had only one last season. The biggest run, though, was Leon Washington's 47-yard TD sprint. It was his only rush of the day.

The second-longest run belonged to Brett Favre, who ran 27 on a naked bootleg - the fourth-longest of his career. Said Favre: "I was about 20 yards down when I realized I was slower than I thought."

NOTHING SPECIAL: It was a brutal day for the Jets' special teams. They got burned on a fake punt and allowed a 56-yard punt return by Roscoe Parrish, mistakes that set up a FG and TD for the Bills.

James Ihedigbo missed a tackle on the fake punt and was penalized for holding, nullifying a long return - one week after a holding call nullified a 99-yard return by Washington. Punter Reggie Hodges (two touchbacks) could be in jeopardy of losing his job.

The Jets did catch a huge break: A holding call on Jon Corto nullified a 100-yard kickoff return by Leodis McKelvin.

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New York Jets' Favre not concerned with stats as he gets older

by M.A. Mehta/The Star-Ledger

Sunday December 14, 2008, 8:36 PM

Justin Lane/EPA

Brett Favre said his 27-yard run in the first quarter against the Bill 'probably shocked everyone.'Brett Favre was barefoot behind the podium, pointing the finger at himself, telling it like it is -- as usual -- in explaining that his numbers, frankly, don't mean much to him these days.

Favre, a shell of his former gunslinging self in recent weeks, had an uneven performance in the Jets' 31-27 come-from-behind victory against the Bills Sunday.

Favre, who hadn't thrown a touchdown in the two previous games, was hardly sharp. The future Hall of Famer completed 17 of 30 passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

"You get to a point as an older player where statistics don't matter quite as much as they used to," said Favre. "The one statistic that matters is wins and losses."

Favre hadn't really aired it out thanks to the Jets' featured short-passing game, but he stretched the field Sunday. Favre hit Laveranues Coles for 22 yards on a deep crossing route on the first play of the game. He found Coles and Jerricho Cotchery -- both of whom were invisible in the past two games -- time and time again on the first two drives.

Favre also showed that he still has some life in his legs with a surprising 27-yard run on a third-and-1 designed bootleg in the game's opening drive.

"It probably shocked everyone," Favre said of his scamper. "I really thought I was going to score. I was about 20 yards down there when I realized that I was slower than I thought."

Favre made sure Coles and Cotchery -- who combined for just two catches for 15 yards in last week's loss to San Francisco -- were instrumental early on. He completed four passes to the duo to lead the Jets to touchdowns on their first two drives. He found Cotchery for an 11-yard touchdown pass on an out route to give the Jets an early 14-3 lead.

"Any time I can get a ball early on, it gets me going," said Cotchery, who had four catches for 34 yards. "With Laveranues, it's the same way. So once we touch the ball, we get into the groove."

Coles, of course, wasn't too thrilled about his role in recent weeks. After just three catches for seven yards in the previous two games, Coles had 5 catches for 82 yards Sunday.

"They wanted to get me involved early and see if I could get the momentum going for us early," Coles said. "Favre did a good job of getting me the ball."

Favre, however, cooled off after the solid start, completing just 5 of 13 passes for 58 yards in the second half. The Jets, not surprisingly, went ice cold on third down after halftime too. Favre & Co. were 0-for-6 on third-down conversions in the second half after completing four of five in the first half.

Favre was careless on the Jets' first possession of the second half when he tossed his second interception on a deep ball down the right sideline intended for Cotchery. Favre's pass on third-and-17 from the Jets' 42 was badly underthrown. Terrence McGee picked it off to help set up a field goal that drew the Bills to within 21-20 late in the third quarter.

"I underthrew it," Favre said. "I was thinking they would play Cover 2. I really was thinking checkdown, (but) they played single safety. So that gives you an opportunity ... to take a shot. Maybe I don't have the arm I once had. I don't know."

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New York Jets' defense comes through when it matters at end of 31-27 victory over Bills

by M.A. Mehta/The Star-Ledger

Sunday December 14, 2008, 7:42 PM

Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

This play -- in which the Bills' Fred Jackson, bottom left, dragged multiple Jets defenders over the goal line for a touchdown -- could have sent the Jets reeling.When Bills running back Fred Jackson dragged what seemed like the entire Jets active roster into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown late in the game, Darrelle Revis swears the Jets maligned defense wasn't deflated. No empty stares, no dispirited looks and certainly no finger pointing when it appeared that the troubled unit had hit rock bottom.

"It's a play you don't want to see happen," Revis said of Jackson's 11-yard score that gave Buffalo a 27-24 lead with 5:30 left. "Once we got out there (again), we knew we had to stop them. There weren't stares like 'Oh, we're going to lose.' Everybody was focused on their job to get the win."

The defense responded with a flurry of big plays late in the game to save the Jets from a crippling defeat. Revis & Co. forced three turnovers in the final 2 minutes, 6 seconds -- including a game- and season-changer on Abram Elam's strip sack that led to Shaun Ellis' fumble recovery and 11-yard rumble for a touchdown.

On a day when the Jets' typically reliable fourth-ranked run defense was exposed, the leaky secondary was airtight. Eric Mangini's club, who had given up an average of 83.5 yards on the ground per game, let Marshawn Lynch (21 carries for 127 yards) run wild. The Jets allowed 187 rushing yards and 5.8 yards per carry.

Lynch, plagued by a stomach virus in the first meeting between the two teams, shed would-be tacklers with a blend of power and speed.

"Obviously, we're not happy with the way we played, but a win is a win," linebacker David Harris said.

"(Lynch) just doesn't seem to go down. He breaks a lot of tackles. He's a good back and that's what good backs do. We just couldn't wrap him up today, and we paid for it a little bit."

The Jets' leaky secondary -- the Achilles' heel for a defense that ranked next to last in the league in pass defense -- held Bills quarterback J.P. Losman to 148 passing yards and picked him off three times, including twice in the final two minutes. Losman was also sacked three times.

"They were committed to running the ball today," Mangini said. "Each game, there's a tradeoff. You try to stop certain things. We've been working on improving our stops in the passing game, which we did. Sometimes you got to give something to get something."

After Ellis' touchdown, Revis intercepted Losman on the first play of the ensuing Bills possession. Kerry Rhodes picked off Losman on the final play of the game on a desperation heave.

Revis pointed to a players-only dinner on Thursday night when the defense talked about the remainder of the season. Defensive leaders such as Ellis, Calvin Pace, Rhodes and Revis organized the gathering at a local Ruth's Chris Steak House. Veterans and practice squad players took turns speaking whatever was on their minds.

"We just wanted to see how people felt about the season," Revis said. "A lot of guys stood up and said what they had to say personally. We all just got closer from guys talking. We don't want to let opportunities slide. ... This was one that almost did, but we made the plays at the end."

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SACK, SCOOP PROVIDE MIRACLE AT MEADOWLANDS SEQUEL

Comments: 2Read Comments Leave a Comment EL' OF A PLAY: The Jets' Shaun Ellis gets ready to grab the loose ball after it was fumbled by Bills quarterback J.P. Losman on a hit by Abram Elam (right). Ellis returned it for a TD with 1:54 left to give the Jets a 31-27 win.

Last updated: 7:07 am

December 15, 2008

Posted: 2:25 am

December 15, 2008

THE JetsNew York Jets weren't just beaten, they were dead. It wasn't just the game about to be tossed in the wood chipper, it was the season. The Bills were one first down away from emptying the pews at Giants Stadium. The clock was melting away, the crowd was apoplectic.

This is what despair looks like, and sounds like, and feels like.

And then the football was on the ground.

"Pick it up!" Shaun EllisShaun Ellis yelled, and his line mate, Bryan ThomasBryan Thomas , tried to do just that but the ball always bounces funniest when it's near your fingers and it slipped through like mercury, and now the remainder of the 78,548 people picked up Ellis' cry, turning it into a plea: "Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!"

And before he knew it, really, before he could process what was happening with his eyes and with his brain, Ellis followed his own advice. He reached for it once, reached for it twice, and suddenly it was in his grasp, and he was still on his feet, 11 yards separating him and a Miracle of the Meadowlands sequel, 30 years later. And now he could hear his brain offering a separate piece of advice:

"Don't fumble."

He didn't fumble. He tip-toed with as much grace as a 6-foot-5, 285-pound man can, he dipped one of those toes in the end zone, he sent the Meadowlands into a frothy frenzy, he turned a certain 27-24 season-deflating loss into the most improbable 31-27 season-saving win you will ever see.

"All I could say as I was watching," Brett Favre would later recall, "was 'Wow!' "

You heard that a lot all over the Meadowlands, even as the Jets' defense finished out the final 114 seconds of the game playing catch with Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, even as the few Buffalo backers in the crowd opted for larger words than "wow," most of them at least four letters long.

"All I was thinking," said Abram Elam, the safety who'd caused the fumble in the first place, "was, 'Are you kidding?' " It was a fair question. The Jets had done everything in their power to make the Bills feel safe and comfy at the Meadowlands, had done everything but order them room service, had allowed a team with nothing to play for to push them around and, now, push them away.

The Jets were about to burn all their timeouts, and it was so much fool's gold because every time Marshawn Lynch touched the ball, it seemed, he picked up seven yards. It was second-and-5. One more first down, 5 more yards, and the Jets would be a third-place team in the AFC East, forced to make a two-week perp walk to play out the string.

"All week long, all we tell each other in practice is: Who's gonna make a play?" Elam said.

Six weeks earlier, at Buffalo, it was Elam who'd burned the Bills for a pick-six interception that turned a game upside-down. Now, he was readying for a blitz, knowing that in the Bills' late-game package - the NFL term is "Gotta-Have-It" plays - the Bills were likely to run Lynch to the right side of the Jets' defense. It was Elam's job to collide with Lynch.

But Lynch was nowhere to be seen. Because for some reason, Bills coach Dick Jauron decided to take the ball out of Lynch's hands and put it in the paws of Losman, who may well be the worst quarterback in the NFL. Now, instead of trying to stick a run, Elam was trying to catch a wobbly quarterback rolling out to the left side of the defense.

He caught him. He swiped at the ball, missed.

"Then I swiped again," he said, "and suddenly you could hear the crowd explode."

Suddenly the ball was on the ground, and in Ellis' hands, and Ellis - who'd spent much of the last two weeks dealing with his marijuana arrest, who is fortunate the Jets hadn't banished him for it - was in the end zone. And suddenly it was the Jets who were feeling awfully fortunate.

"We'll take it," Favre said, and since the Bills were intoxicated by the spirit of the season, it was right there for them to do just that. They live another week.

michael.vaccaro@nypost.com

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JETS OFFENSE STALLS AGAIN

Comments: 1Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

Last updated: 2:49 am

December 15, 2008

Posted: 2:25 am

December 15, 2008

The JetsNew York Jets offense looked as if it was back on track in the first quarter, then it went right back off the rails in the 31-27 victory over the Bills.

Brett Favre and Co. put together two impressive touchdown drives to start the game before returning to the form it showed in losses to Denver and San Francisco.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made a clear effort to open up the offense on the first drive. Wide receivers Laveranues ColesLaveranues Coles and Jerricho CotcheryJerricho Cotchery , who each had one catch last week, both had catches three plays into the game.

"The game plan was to get us involved," Cotchery said. "Coach Schottenheimer and the offensive staff did a great job of doing that to get us going early. When you get me and Laveranues going early we kind of get into a groove, and we can pretty much do whatever we want once we get into a groove."

Schottenheimer also showed some creativity with the third-and-1 bootleg run by Favre that gained 27 yards. The first two drives were a combined 15 plays for 142 yards, and it looked as if the Jets might be headed for a blowout.

Favre, however, threw a whacky interception early in the second quarter and the offense stalled other than a Leon Washington 47-yard touchdown run. They had just four first downs in the second half, none in the fourth quarter, and should be grateful the Jets defense bailed them out in the end.

Third down again proved to be problematic for the Jets. They converted 4-of-5 on third down to start the game, but went 0-for-6 to end it.

*

Special teams were anything but for the Jets. They had a number of miscues. They gave up a fake punt, had two punts downed inside the 10, allowed a long punt return that set up a score, punter Reggie Hodges had a net punting average of 26.5 yards, James Ihedigbo had another penalty on a kickoff return and they nearly gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown but it was called back.

*

First-round pick Vernon Gholston, who is guaranteed $21 million, was inactive for the first time. . . . WR David Clowney made his debut and had a nice one-handed catch. . . . RB Thomas Jones broke franchise season records for touchdowns (15), rushing touchdowns (13) and consecutive games with a touchdown (eight). . . . DE Shaun Ellis' fourth-quarter score was his first career touchdown. . . . The season sweep is the Jets' first over the Bills since 2002.

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JAURON'S BONEHEAD CALL DOOMS BILLS

December 15, 2008

It wasn't quite the Miracle in the Meadowlands. It was more like Stupidity in the Swamp.

The JetsNew York Jets seemed destined for a playoff-damaging loss to Buffalo until one stupid call by Bills coach Dick Jauron - and one serendipitous bounce to Shaun EllisShaun Ellis - handed the Jets a come-from-behind 31-27 win yesterday.

The Bills led 27-24 with just 2:06 left. But on second-and-5 from their own 27, Jauron inexplicably went away from running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 127 yards on 21 carries, and decided to put the game in the hands of backup quarterback J.P. Losman. Losman went back to pass and was promptly sacked from behind by safety Abram ElamAbram Elam , and fumbled the ball away to Ellis, who rumbled to the end zone for an 11-yard game-winning score.

"Of a number of heartbreaking losses, that was the worst. It was a dismal locker room," said Jauron, who insists the play-action pass was his call, not offensive coordinator Turk Schonert's.

"The responsibility for the call . . . that was mine. It backfired and caused us to lose the game. The guys fought hard, made enough plays to win. I just didn't help them with that call."

It was a call that left the Jets scratching their heads and several of the Bills defenders seething.

The dumb decision might cost Jauron his job.

When asked last week if Jauron would be back, Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. replied, "I don't know." Yesterday will not help.

"I've never given one away like that at the end," defensive lineman Marcus Stroud. "Christmas came early for them. We gift-wrapped that one and gave it away."

Fullback Corey McIntyre, the outlet receiver who should have been in the flat, was jammed, and Losman never saw Elam coming on a run blitz from his blind side. He lost the ball, and Ellis rumbled in for the touchdown.

Jauron didn't comment when asked if Losman should have been more aware and careful with the ball.

"I'm not gonna go there," he said. "It's on my shoulders to protect him, to keep him from that situation, and I didn't do it."

Juaron's offensive coordinator wasn't shy in placing the blame on Losman.

"He's got to see the blitz," Schonert said. "When the fullback gets stuffed immediately, he's got to either protect it or just throw it away."

Losman, who threw three interceptions, took the blame.

"I should've thrown the ball away as soon as I saw it wasn't there," he said. "Either way it's a tough situation. The call was made, and I've got to hold on to the ball."

Lynch declined to comment on why he wasn't given the opportunity to try to pick up one more first down and run out the clock.

brian.lewis@nypost.com

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UNLIKELY TD IN FINAL 1:54 BURNS BUFFALO

Comments: 2Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

BAD 'LOS' IS GOOD WIN: Bills quarterback J.P. Losman gets sacked by Abram Elam before Shaun Ellis recovered the fumble and ran it in for the game-winning TD in the Jets' 31-27 victory on a head-scratching play call by Bills coach Dick Jauron.

Last updated: 7:05 am

December 15, 2008

Posted: 2:25 am

December 15, 2008

Dick Jauron, not Shaun EllisShaun Ellis , looked like the one who was smoking something at the end of yesterday's stunning JetsNew York Jets victory over Buffalo.

The Bills coach inexplicably called a pass with two minutes left and his team in complete control that resulted in a J.P. Losman fumble, which Ellis recovered and returned for an 11-yard touchdown, giving the Jets a 31-27 home win.

VACCARO: Sack, Scoop Provide Miracle At Meadowlands Sequel

GREENBERG: Ol' Favre Struggles Again

PHOTOS: Jets Ground Bills

Ellis, arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago, went from distraction to hero with the runback that keeps the Jets tied with the Dolphins and Patriots atop the AFC East at 9-5 with two weeks left.

Call it "Miracle at the Meadowlands II" or the "Stunner in the Swamp." Eleven days before Christmas, Jauron gift-wrapped this one, leaving the Jets in a mix of giddiness and disbelief.

"Number 1 and nothing's second," wide receiver Jerricho CotcheryJerricho Cotchery said when asked where this one ranks among Jets victories he has been a part of. "At that point in time everything is flashing before your eyes - the season, everything, all the hard work you put in."

Early on it looked as if the Jets were going to run right over Buffalo. They took a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, but then began making mistakes. The Bills grabbed a 27-24 lead with 5:30 left in the game after Fred Jackson carried half the Jets' defense into the end zone.

Leon Washington gave the Jets field position after a 43-yard kickoff return, but the offense stalled, going three-and-out. After success early in the game, the Jets' offense disappeared, failing to get a first down in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo (6-8) got the ball with 4:20 left and Marshawn Lynch (21 rushes, 127 yards) made the Jets' defense look invisible. Lynch carried the ball four times for 17 yards before Jauron wrote his own pink slip.

On second-and-5, Losman rolled to his right looking for fullback Corey McIntyre, who didn't make it past the line of scrimmage. Instead of throwing the ball away, Losman kept rolling. Safety Abram Elam, coming on a blitz, caught Losman from behind and knocked the ball loose. Ellis picked it up, ran over a Bills lineman and into the end zone.

"That goes right on me," said Jauron, whose job was in jeopardy before this gaffe. "It backfired clearly, and it caused us to lose the game. The guys fought hard. They made enough plays to win that football game. I just didn't help them with that call."

The turnover was one of three the Jets forced in the final three minutes. Darrelle Revis intercepted Losman on the following drive and Kerry Rhodes picked off his desperation heave at the end of regulation.

The win was like lipstick on a pig for the Jets, who played poorly for the third straight game. Lynch ran roughshod, there were numerous special teams mistakes, the offense managed just 94 yards in the second half and quarterback Brett Favre had two interceptions.

None of that mattered, though, in the afterglow of this miracle finish that snapped their two-game losing skid.

"I don't know how to react right now, to be honest with you," Jets tackle Damien Woody said. "It's surreal right now. Not that long ago what the situation was to where we're at now, 9-5, it's pretty remarkable."

The Jets' offense watched the play from the sideline, where they began thinking their season might be over.

The play call left both sides shaking their heads. As Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud walked to the locker room he said, "Just run the (bleeping) ball" to a teammate.

"All I can say is, 'Wow,' " Favre said. "There are several things on that play that make you scratch your head."

brian.costello@nypost.com

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