Colts wiggle off winless hook, beat Jets Indianapolis' 28-27 victory ends 20 quarters without TD

November 11, 1991|By Terry Price | Terry Price,The Hartford Courant

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jeff George had taken to staying in his house. It wasn't any fun being seen in public, even if it meant eating TV dinners three times a day.

Now, maybe the Indianapolis Colts quarterback can go out for a nine-course feast. Champagne for everyone.

The Colts, by virtue of a 28-27 victory over the New York Jets yesterday at Giants Stadium, are no longer winless.

"It feels like we've won a Super Bowl," George said.

The Colts' first victory greatly hurt the playoff hopes of the Jets (5-5).

After taking a 14-0 lead, the Jets fell apart. George rallied the Colts (1-9) -- who hadn't scored a touchdown in 20 quarters -- with three touchdown passes, but the Jets played their worst game of the season.

"This is real tough," Jets coach Bruce Coslet said. "We know how to lose as a team. Everybody contributed. We made mistakes on defense. We made huge mistakes on offense. We made critical mistakes on special teams. We can't do that and win. We are not that strong of a football team. We can't overcome all that."

The Jets had the ball twice in the final 2 minutes, 40 seconds, but bungled both opportunities to get into position for a field goal.

The Jets also missed two field-goal tries (26 and 45 yards), fumbled a kickoff that led to a Colts touchdown and failed to sack George. The Jets had 24 first downs and 436 yards total offense -- to 282 for the Colts -- but it wasn't enough.

The Jets didn't say they had taken Indianapolis lightly, but clearly they failed to buckle down the way they did against teams such as the Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers.

"We didn't overlook Indianapolis," Jets receiver Chris Burkett said. "But I think we will focus better against teams from now on."

The breakthrough victory came at a somewhat unlikely juncture for the Colts, who staggered through the week after star running back Eric Dickerson was suspended four games for refusing to participate in a practice.

Without Dickerson, an 0-16 season seemed even more likely for the Colts, who had not scored a touchdown in five games.

"I've been staying home," George said. "I didn't want to see people. It's hard when you hear you're going to be an 0-16 team. I might go out this week."

But 1991 won't be a complete wipeout, thanks, in large part, to the strong-armed George.

"We had a lot to overcome this week," said George, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 239 yards. "We made the big plays. That's what you've got to do to win."

The Colts had scored only four touchdowns their first eight games. They matched that total against the Jets.

Two plays got the Colts back in the game. One came with the Jets leading, 14-0, when George threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Hester with 1:07 remaining in the first half.

The score gave the Colts life.

"If we had gone to the locker room at halftime with a 14-0 lead, it would have taken the air out of them," Jets cornerback Mike Brim said.

The second half also began ominously for the Jets. Clarence Verdin returned the kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, as the Colts tied it at 14.

The Jets came right back with a 74-yard touchdown drive.

The Colts answered the next series with a 75-yard scoring march, climaxed by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hester with 4:32 left in the third quarter.

The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Terance Mathis at the Jets 25. It took the Colts four plays to get into the end zone. George hit Billy Brooks with a 7-yard touchdown pass to give Indianapolis a 28-21 lead with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

The rest was total frustration for the Jets. Twice they got inside the Colts 10 and had to settle for field goals.

The first drive ended on a couple of strange calls -- lob passes by quarterback Ken O'Brien into the end zone toward Burkett. Leahy kicked a 22-yard field goal to cut the lead to 28-24.

The Jets were in position to retake the lead after the Colts fumbled the kickoff. But O'Brien again threw an incompletion in the end zone, and Leahy came on to kick a 25-yard field goal with 8:25 left.

The Jets got the ball with 2:40 remaining on Brim's interception at their 42 -- plenty of time to get within field-goal range. But O'Brien threw an incompletion. Then he took an 11-yard sack, followed by two more incompletions.

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