|Jets' Mike Nugent (right) celebrates with Ben Graham after his winning kick. (WILFREDO LEE/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Jets get leg up on playoff berth
MIAMI -- The stadium was two-thirds empty by the fourth quarter, and small clusters of New York Jets fans let out a hearty cheer when Mike Nugent kicked the winning field goal with 10 seconds left last night.
A playoff atmosphere? Hardly. But the Jets moved closer to the postseason with an ugly but crucial comeback victory.
New York overcame steady rain, a sputtering offense, and two late scores by the Miami Dolphins to win, 13-10.
"For us it was all about chipping away and waiting for our moment," Jets coach Eric Mangini said.
All of the points came in the final 17:25. Miami kicked a tying field goal with 2:09 left, but on the Jets' next play, Leon Washington caught a short pass from Chad Pennington and broke loose for a 64-yard gain.
Four plays later, Nugent kicked a 30-yarder. That meant the Jets (9-6) can clinch an AFC wild-card playoff berth if they beat Oakland (2-13) in their final regular-season game Sunday.
"We like controlling our own destiny and not having to rely on someone else to help us," defensive end Shaun Ellis said.
For the Dolphins (6-9), the defeat ensures the first losing season for Nick Saban in his 13 years as a college and NFL coach. Miami was eliminated from the playoff race a week ago.
"When it came to it, we just fell apart on defense," linebacker Zach Thomas said. "And they made great plays when they had to."
The rain resulted in a succession of errant and dropped passes -- and 18 punts. A mishandled snap spoiled a field goal try by New York.
When the Dolphins' scoreless streak reached six quarters, Cleo Lemon replaced Joey Harrington at quarterback to start the second half. A third-year pro, Lemon threw his first NFL touchdown pass and finished 11 for 16 for 104 yards.
"We decided to go with Cleo to see if he would give us a little bit of a spark," Saban said. "He did a decent job of moving the team a couple of times."