EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The unbelievable celebration started with a Steve Johnson touchdown. It ended with accusations of classlessness, an embarrassed Johnson and possibly, quite possibly, another Jets run into the playoffs even if they are the luckiest team on the planet.
Johnson's stunning, premeditated, post-score antics were some of the most unique ever constructed and also, easily, some of the most controversial. But it was damn fine entertainment in a damn entertaining game the Jets won 28-24, with Johnson's actions likely discussed extensively by media and fans regarding their appropriateness. The page views might also break the Internet.
Johnson after the game called his celebration "stupid." He was called for excessive celebration, the Bills were penalized on the ensuing kickoff and Dave Rayner accidentally flubbed the kick, which was recovered by the Jets. New York scored on the ensuing drive to tie the score at 14. How much that penalty really hurt the Bills is up for question.
"It was a bad decision," Johnson said. "It's irrelevant whether or not I rehearsed it. At the end of the day, it cost our team seven points. I have to apologize to everyone and talk to the coach. I can't do that. I need to be mature about the situation."
As you might expect, Jets players weren't happy with Johnson. "That was an ignorant thing to do," tight end Dustin Keller said.
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Keller also called Johnson an idiot and Santonio Holmes, another of Johnson's targets, called him "classless." Plaxico Burress said he has heard worse. But can there be any doubt that what Johnson did irritated him?
When informed of Johnson's antics, Jets coach Rex Ryan took a deep breath, and then said, "Well, I have no comment."
In the end, the two men Johnson mocked, Burress and Holmes, got the last laugh, making big catch after big catch in a game that basically destroyed the Bills' chances of making the playoffs. Then with just seconds left, Johnson dropped a pass at about the Jets' 20-yard line that he would have had a chance to score on. Johnson has been known to drop huge passes and this was another example. Some will use the 'k' word: karma.
The play on the Johnson drop was actually drawn up almost in the dirt by Johnson and Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In the huddle before the snap, Fitzpatrick told Johnson where to line up and what to run. They had never practiced the route before.
Players and others across Twitter mocked Johnson after that drop with the same vigor they praised his celebration. "Stevie Johnson?" tweeted former Jacksonville Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor, "more like Stevie Wonder. #CATCHtheBALLman."
Johnson shook the hands of two Jets players after the game but then left the field immediately. He was avoiding most of the Jets. Smart man.
The Bills are not mathematically eliminated but their putrid season -- possibly the most disappointing in the entire NFL -- is over. So while Johnson will now make the touchdown celebration Hall of Fame, he and his Bills will be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their homes. There, Johnson can work on all the dances he wants.
|In spite of having a banged-up receiving unit, the Bills were able to execute when they needed to. The defense had more production than in recent weeks, but still struggled with inconsistencies. An errant kickoff by new K Dave Rayner ultimately resulted in a score for the Jets. Numerous penalties and missed assignments at critical junctures created setbacks.|
|New York Jets|
|The Jets' fourth-quarter magic was in evidence again. The team managed to overcome missed assignments on defense and inconsistency on offense, including inaccurate throws and an interception by QB Mark Sanchez. Special teams didn't produce as it usually does. A muffed punt by CB Antonio Cromartie and some inconsistent tackling hurt them.|
|By Lisa Zimmerman |
The celebration happened after Johnson scored and then immediately got up and started acting like he was dancing. Then he did what looked to be a shooting motion and suddenly grabbed his leg. He was simulating Burress dancing in a club and accidentally shooting himself which, well, actually happened.
Then, as if that wasn't enough, he simulated a crashing jet, mocking the celebration of Holmes. The appropriateness of that one considering the events of Sept. 11 will certainly be discussed here in the New York area (though it shouldn't be).
What Johnson did could lead to a fine from the NFL. Just last week Philadelphia linebacker Brian Rolle was fined $10,000 for making a machine gun gesture and the question will be if Johnson actually made a shooting gesture (it's close but looks like he does).
Johnson's antics weren't just silly, they were part of a theme for the Bills. Another Bills player also did the mocking plane crash and it was clear Buffalo players weren't going to concede anything to the Jets. Eventually, sloppy play and Johnson's late drop killed a team that started with such promise.
The Jets are impossible to dismiss because Ryan is a good coach and this team can get hot anytime. The Jets are lucky. The Jets are error-prone. But we've been here before with this team. The doubters piling on, the booing of quarterback Mark Sanchez. Here we go again. Would it stun anyone if the Jets make another playoff trek?
"It might not be the prettiest thing," Ryan said of his defense, "but we finished."
Ryan could have said that about the entire Jets team.
The Jets are incredibly resilient and deserve praise for that, Sanchez especially. But this time he threw for four scores and had the winning drive. He also had tremendous help with one of the great catches of the season. On third down with just two minutes remaining and the Jets trailing 24-21, Burress made a one-handed grab near the left sideline that kept the drive alive. A drop would have meant a long field goal. Instead, two plays later, Sanchez threw to Holmes for a 16-yard touchdown.
"There are very few guys in this league that are going to make that catch," Ryan said of Burress.
So, in the end, Johnson won the dance-off.
The Jets won the game.