You see, I was at the final game at Shea Stadium this past September, when New York Mets outfielder Ryan Church made contact with a 1-0 pitch and, for the briefest of moments, I thought he might have had it. I was already on my feet, but I rose up a bit higher as a rush of some chemical or another made me believe the Mets were about to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Alas, the pop fly didn't even reach the warning track, landing safely in the center fielder's glove for the final out of the Mets season.
A similar feeling came over me as Brett Favre lofted a deep pass for Laveranues Coles on fourth down with just over two minutes left in the game. For a moment, about the same time it takes a bat to get through the hitting zone, it seemed like Coles had it. For a moment, the Jets' drive, and season, was alive.
A moment later, the ball was on the snow-covered turf, and the Jets had turned it over.
None of this seemed likely a month ago. The Jets were 8-3 and winners of five consecutive games. They were coming off a thrilling Thursday night overtime victory in Foxboro over the defending AFC Champs and a 34-13 thrashing in Tennessee against the then-undefeated Titans.
Favre, who was chucking it up for grabs in the first few games—to mixed results—had settled down, becoming more of a "game manager" on the conference's hottest team.
His 12 interceptions over the first eight games were forgotten, replaced by memories of his 5:1 touchdown to interception ratio in the next three.
Then came the 34-17 loss at home against the Broncos the following week, in which New York's pass defense was exposed. Every game has a title in the NFL, so this was simply a "letdown game" for the Jets, a game analysts almost expected them to lose after the emotional highs of beating New England and Tennessee. Besides, it was raining that day.
No sweat—New York was still 8-4 and in first place in the AFC East. Even after a loss to San Francisco, their third straight West Coast meltdown, the Jets still controlled their own destiny.
But yesterday in Seattle, when Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace took a knee as the clock ran out, making the Jets 0-4 on their trips out west, that was no longer the case.
Now the J-E-T-S need H-E-L-P.
Unfortunately for Gang Green, help comes in the form of the Buffalo Bills, which must beat the Patriots next week if the Jets are to reach the postseason. That is assuming, of course, that New York can handle Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins at Giants Stadium.
The New York Mets know all about scoreboard watching. For the past two years they have witnessed their playoff hopes die in the final game of the season, both times while facing a team from Florida. Much like the Jets players must think, the Mets felt they could make some noise once they reached the postseason. Getting there was the hard part.
With a win next Sunday, the Jets would be 10-6, including an 8-4 mark in the conference and, even more impressive, a 5-1 record within the division. That would include a sweep of Miami and a win at New England.
Keep in the mind that the Jets also won at Tennessee, which locked up the No. 1 seed in the conference yesterday, and against the NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals. Both were blowout victories.
On the flip side, excluding the loss to the Pats, New York's five losses have come to teams with a combined record of 29-46.
The Mets of the past two seasons were the same way. Last year, the Mets sat at home and watched the Phillies win the World Series. Yet the Mets were 11-7 against Philadelphia. However, they had losing records against the likes of Atlanta and San Diego, which both finished near the bottom of their respective divisions.
It just doesn't make sense.
For fans, it's heartbreaking, especially for those like myself, who like the Mets and the Jets. I just knew the Mets could've made a deep postseason run in both 2007 and 2008, but they fell apart in late September. I feel the same way about the Jets, who have shown they can beat the league's best.
But as they say, you gotta be in it to win it.
And barring an unlikely turn of events Sunday, the Jets, like the Mets, won't be in it.
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