I make no apologies for being a Jets fan. In fact, they should apologize to me for 2012, but we’ll save that for another day. Despite a lack of wins, they stayed in the headlines all year long. For every circus attraction that was their season, the biggest moment wasn’t the Butt Fumble, or the Sanchez Drama. Or the Rex Ryan drama. Or the Tebow drama. Okay, there was a lot of drama. In fact, more drama than victories, for sure. BUT. (Not Butt as in fumble) BUT. What never gets talked about was a moment that could have not only saved the Jets season, but possibly catapulted them to the playoffs.
In Week 7, the 3-3 Jets played 3-3 New England with first place in the AFC East at stake. New York lost in overtime 29-26 – just another Jets-Pats game, right? Not so much. With no Santonio Holmes and no Darrelle Revis, New York played the Patriots tight, and were poised to win the game late in the 4 th quarter. With 2:13 left and the Jets down three, they were on the Patriots 26-yard line. On 3 rd and 3, Mark Sanchez threw an easy pass to rookie WR Stephen Hill, who was all alone at the 14 yard line. There wasn’t a DB within five yards of him. He ran a stop route and turned. Sanchez’ pass was right in the numbers. The play wouldn’t have been a touchdown, but Hill would have easily gotten inside the 10-yard line as the clock would have hit the 2:00 warning. New England would have had to stop the Jets three times, and possibly use all of their time outs in the process. A touchdown would have nearly been a certainty, seeing how easily the Jets had moved the ball all day against their defense. New York would have had a four-point lead and forced the Patriots to score a touchdown on their ensuing possession, which would have been incredibly difficult with a lack of time outs and time remaining. In all likelihood, the Jets would have won the game.
Instead, Stephen Hill dropped it. A rookie mistake, trying to turn and run before he caught it. NFL.com Around the League writer and fellow Jets fan Dan Hanzus and I looked at each other and our eyes said it all: That was it. That was the game. Same old Jets. We had it right there. The ball fell to the ground, the Jets kicked a field goal and went on to lose the game. Their season slowly deteriorated from there. That was the true tipping point for Gang Green. Had Hill caught the pass, the Jets, despite all their injuries and controversy, are in first place in the AFC East near the midway point of the season. And their year unfolds differently – playing with confidence knowing that after all they’d been through they were at the top of the division. I know the Butt Fumble is going to be the blooper highlight that gets played over and over again when people get fired and cut, but the Hill drop was the true crushing moment of 2012 for the Jets. I just went back and watched it again and it was just as painful as it was the first time – knowing that while the ball is in the air the possibilities for the Jets are all still there for them. And when it hit the ground, they weren’t.
Check out more 2012 NFL-ballooza content:
Top Ten NFL Pop Culture Moments in 2012
5 Favorite NFL Research Nuggets
Our Favorite NFL Images of the Year
The Drop – The Jets Season Explained in One Play
The Year on the Fringe…Fantasy
My Favorite 2012 Football Card – Tim Tebow
Unexpected (and expected) Year in Review
Memories of Experiencing Chuck Strong