ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Chad Morton didn't want to look back to see if anyone was chasing him. Now the New York Jets can look forward after squeaking out a dramatic victory to open their season.
|Chad Morton runs past Bills kicker Mike Hollis on his way to the winning touchdown. (AP)|
He became just the second player in NFL history to return an overtime kickoff for a touchdown. On Nov. 27, 1980, Chicago's Dave Williams took the opening OT kickoff for a score, leading the Bears past the Detroit Lions 23-17.
"I knew it was going to be a foot race. I didn't know if I had enough gas to make it to the end zone," Morton said. "I was thinking to myself, 'Please, don't get caught. ... But I made it into the end zone. Game over."
Morton caught Mike Hollis' kickoff along the right sideline and cut toward the middle of the field. He broke a tackle at the 30, then outran Shawn Bryson into the end zone.
He is the first player in NFL history to return a kickoff for a score in regulation and overtime. He also became the first Jets player and fifth player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for scores. New Orleans' Tyrone Hughes was the last player to run back two kickoffs for scores, accomplishing the feat in 1994.
After running back a 98-yarder -- the third-longest in franchise history -- in the second quarter, Morton had enough in him for one more big return. It came after Bledsoe forced overtime by hitting Eric Moulds with a 29-yard TD pass with 26 seconds remaining.
The Jets won even though Curtis Martin left the game at halftime with a sprained left ankle, and Vinny Testaverde played inconsistently.
Testaverde finished 24-of-30 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Becht, with a 1-yard reception, and Wayne Chrebet, with an 18-yarder, also scored for the Jets.
|Drew Bledsoe kept the pressure on the Jets. (AP)|
"It was very surreal," Bledsoe said, as he watched the game end from the sideline. "It took me a while to settle down."
Buffalo's Travis Henry rushed for a career-high 149 yards and three touchdowns.
The close finish should not have come as a surprise. The two teams' previous three meetings were decided by six points or less.
Jets coach Herman Edwards overlooked the sloppy performance that included the Jets being called for 10 penalties, including two roughing the kicker calls. Edwards was impressed by something else.
"Their will to win," Edwards said. "That is something you don't measure. It's something that is inside. The guys just kept fighting."
The Jets overcame a 10-0 deficit in the first half, and rallied back after the Bills took a 24-20 lead on Henry's 2-yard plunge late in the third quarter.
Special teams continue to haunt the Bills, going back to the Music City Miracle in the 1999 AFC wild-card playoff loss to Tennessee. That's when Titans Frank Wycheck threw a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson, and he scampered 75 yards for a 22-16 victory as time ran out.
Sunday, the Bills allowed 300 yards in returns. They also allowed Jason Glenn's blocked punt, which led to Hall's 33-yard field goal that cut Buffalo's lead to 24-23 early in the fourth quarter.
"It was the worst day I've ever experienced and ultimately it's our responsibility as a special teams group," Bills special teams coach Danny Smith said. "I apologize to our football team. I apologize to the Buffalo Bills organization. I apologize to the fans. If we had done anything today, we would've won the football game."
- Jets kicker John Hall hit three field goals, including a 45-yarder, but missed a 48-yard attempt wide right early in the fourth quarter.
- Hollis hit a 52-yard attempt for the Bills, but missed a 50-yarder to the right.
- The Jets offense sputtered through most of the first half but they led 14-10 despite managing just one first down.
The Associated Press News Service
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