The place was still full, and loud. The crowd appalauding and still cheering. The game was a good 20 minutes over but that wasn't stopping anybody. What a crazy, crazy day it had been on this cold december day. Week 17 of the NFL season in 2002 was now complete, but that was one thing the Jets season was not. And that is finished cause we're going to the play-offs! But to fully understand what this meant to a die-hard Jet fan only in the third grade, you had to fully understand the situation, so drift back into 2002...
We weren't even going to have the tickets. You see my uncle on my mom's side of the family is the one with the season tickets but he split with my mom. I was a lucky, lucky boy getting to go to all of those NFL games and this year was suppose to be special, especially after coming off of a season where we made the play-offs.
But the season hasn't really started off as planed. the jets started 2-5 and didn't even score a TOUCHDOWN since their last win. It was starting to get painfull. Now everybody loved Vinny Testaverde but his time was fast approaching as a back-up and Chad Pennington was just sitting, anxiously awaiting his chance as field general for the jets.
In his first start the jets lost 29-25 to the Chiefs but hey at least we scored a touchdown! progress was being made and the jets went on a run unlike no other in their franchise history. The jets were exciting to watch with a young, energetic QB and with the most improved defense in the NFL the jets climbed their record to 8-7 going into week 17.
The tie-brakers were important because the Jets had an upper hand in most of them. In order to make the play-offs this is what needed to happen: Jets beat the Packers AND the Falcons defeat the Browns or The jets defeat the Packers AND the Patriots defeat the Dolphins
As I said before we weren't even going to have the tickets at all. From this day on I still don't know why we got them but on the Day of Christmas we had the tickets. Oh what a perfect gift it was!!! This was the beginning of what would be the best day of my life.
I still remeber the car ride up and I can't believe I understood the magnification of this game, this was for the play-offs!! Riding up in our mini-van, wearing my Wayne Chrebet jersey we drove up the two and a half hours and when we got there the place was packed!!!! The game started at 4:05, we were there at 1:15 struggling to find a place to park but we finally did.
My mom and I went over to 13A and tailgated for a while, but when the early games started finishing up I and fellow jets fans were nervous as could be. Most paeople felt the best chance for the Jets was the Falcons beating the browns. The Browns were a sub-par team (at least that's how I remeber it) and the Falcons were pretty good, But had X-factor Mike Vick. The TV was flipped to that game and The Browns were up by four late in the game, but the Falcons were driving down the field. With about twenty seconds or so left in the game, the Falcons were on the one! Surley they could make it one more yard. But play after play the falcons got stuffed and lost. I couldn't believe my eyes.
I still remeber my exact words to my mom who was standing right next to me. "We're not going to the play-offs" I said
"There is still time Chris, you never know." With only a minute left in the game the kick-off went out of bounds. So there was hope. The Patriots got into Vinatieri range. So with about 2 seconds left in the game that decides our play-off fate a bunch of stangers connected by only one thing were huddling around an old pick up truck, watching our hated rivals, the patriots, beat our other hated rival. And when Vinatieri put that kick up and through the uprights, hugs went all around to anyone you saw.
This is when it got real crazy. Everybody just started running to the gates to get into the stadium. The place was going nuts and when we finally got to our seats, I don't remeber sitting in them once. the atmosphere was electrifying and the jets knew a win-and-their-in was on the line. And we just didn't win, we dominated. The meadowlands was as loud as i've ever heard it. pennington played great and even good old Vinny came in at the end and threw a touchdown pass.
near the end of the game was the most fun. Singing sweet Caroline and taunting opposing fans was great. Waving bye to the idiots wearing the cheese heads, and doing the jets chant didn't get any better.
The game ended, but the jets season didn't. Chad Pennington ran off the field into the tunnel with a huge smile. The jets did it! They came back from a disasterous start and made the play-offs and I was there for it. it was a great day for our family.
I still have pictures cemented in my mind from that very day. It was amazing, So I just thought I would take some time to thank the jets, for making this the best day of my Young life.