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Sports Then and Now

Classic Rewind: Missed Kicks Sink Jets vs. Steelers

Posted on December 15, 2010 by A.J. Foss

Many Jets fans will tell you that they are the unluckiest franchise in the National Football League because the Jets always find a way to lose in the most important games.

Another chapter to the Jets’ star-crossed history was added in their 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when kicker Doug Brien missed not one but two field goals in the final two minutes of regulation that could have won the game for New York, but ended up losing the game in overtime.

In 2004, the Jets finished with a 10-6 record to earn a wild card berth, the team’s third playoff appearance in four years under head coach Herm Edwards.

In the Wild Card Round, the Jets pulled out a 20-17 overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers when Brien made a 28-yard field goal with five seconds left in the first overtime period to give New York an upset victory and sent them to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

The Steelers had the best record in the NFL during the 2004 season, a 15-1 record thanks to the league’s best defense and best rushing game lead by Jerome Bettis.

The biggest surprise of this season was the fact that the Steelers were able to go 15-1 with a rookie quarterback.

The Steelers used their pick in the first round to select quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was designated to be their quarterback of the future and sit on the bench for the 2004 season.

But when incumbent starting quarterback Tommy Maddox was knocked out of the second game of the season with an elbow injury in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Roethlisberger was forced to step in and take the reins as the starting quarterback.

Roethlisberger started 13 games and won all 13 of them, which included a 34-20 win against the New England Patriots that ended their 21-game winning streak, and a 17-6 win against the Jets.

Jerome Bettis gave the Steelers an early 10-0 lead with a three-yard touchdown run.

Even though they had the home field advantage, most experts were curious to see if Roethlisberger could play well in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh got on the board first with a 45-yard field goal by Jeff Reed to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Two plays after the field goal, Steelers safety Troy Polamulu picked off a Pennington pass and returned it 15 yards to the Jets’ 25-yard-line, leading to a 3-yard touchdown run by Bettis that increased the Steelers’ lead to 10-0 with 1:58 left in the first quarter.

The Jets were able to mount a response on their next drive as they drove 39 yards in 11 plays, ending with a 42-yard field goal by Brien that cut the lead to 10-3 with 10:33 left in the second quarter.

Late in the second quarter, the Jets would tie the game when wide receiver Santana Moss took a Chris Gardocki punt and raced down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown for the first punt return for a touchdown in Jets postseason history.

The touchdown made it 10-10, which was still the score as the first half come to an end.

Both teams punted on their opening possessions of the third quarter before the Steelers were able to mount their best drive of the game as they drove from their own 20 to the Jets’ 34-yard-line.        However, on 2nd-and-10 at the Jets 34, Roethlisberger was forced out of the pocket and launched a pass intended for Antawn Randle El that Jets strong safety Reggie Tongue picked off and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown that gave the Jets their first lead of the game at 17-10 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.

Santana Moss scored on a 75-yard punt return.

The Steelers drove back into Jets territory on their next drive but once again turned it over when Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis stripped Bettis of the ball, causing a fumble that was recovered by safety Erik Coleman at the Jets’ 23-yard-line, just 47 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The Steelers forced a three-and-out to get the ball back at their own 34-yard-line, where they began their third straight drive into Jets territory.

This time, the Steelers got a touchdown as Roethlisberger tossed a shovel pass to Ward for a 4-yard touchdown to end the 12-play, 66-yard drive and to tie the game at 17 with exactly six minutes to go in regulation.

Following the game-tying touchdown, the Jets took over at their own 23-yard-line and began a drive that featured a 22-yard completion to Justin McCariens and a 17-yard pass to Curtis Martin, which put the Jets at the Steelers’ 28-yard-line.

After Pennington threw an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-5, Brien came on to attempt a 47-yard field goal that would give the Jets the lead.

Brien had the distance, but the kick bounced off left upright and was no good, giving the Steelers the ball at their own 37-yard-line with 1:58 remaining.

But on the very first play after the missed field goal, Roethlisberger was picked off by Jets cornerback David Barrett, who returned it 24 yards to the Steelers’ 36, giving the Jets an another chance to win the game with 1:46 to play.

Even though they had two timeouts and a short field, the Jets played conservatively as they ran the ball four times and threw one screen pass, as the Jets only drove 12 yards to the 24-yard-line, before calling their last timeout with four seconds to play to set up another potential game-winning field goal, this time from 43 yards out.

Doug Brien missed two potential game-winning field goals.

Unfortunately for Brien, he could not take advantage of his second chance as his 43-yard-kick sailed left as time expired, sending the game into overtime tied at 17-17.

The Jets won the overtime coin toss and took the ball on offense, but were only able to drive to their own 41-yard-line before punting the ball back to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers took over at their own 13-yard-line and drove to the Jets’ 15-yard-line as Roethlisberger completed three passes to Ward for 31 yards and Duce Staley carried it six times for 28 yards on a 13-play, 72-yard drive.

On 4th-and-1 from the 15, Reed came on for his first chance to win the game, a 33-yarder.

The Jets called timeout in hopes of icing Reed but to no avail as his kick sailed through the uprights, 12:05 into the overtime period, giving the Steelers a 20-17 victory and advancing them to the AFC Championship Game.

The Steelers hosted the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and defeated 41-27, the fourth time Pittsburgh lost an AFC Championship Game at home under head coach Bill Cowher.

Roethlisberger was picked off three times in that game, including one that was returned for an 87-yard touchdown, as Big Ben threw five interceptions in his two playoff games.

Roethlisberger would redeem himself the next season as he lead the Steelers to three consecutive road victories in the AFC playoffs before the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL, the final game in Jerome Bettis’ career.

The Jets would finish the 2005 season with a 4-12 record as injuries derailed the team.

After the season, Herm Edwards left the team to become head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

As for Brien, he would be released by the Jets in the offseason following their loss to the Steelers.

He signed with the Chicago Bears for the 2005 season before being released late in the season.

He was not kicked in the NFL since then.

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