MIAMI -- Bruce Coslet walked into the locker room after the game and, before he could talk to the team, he was all wet. He was doused with a bucket of ice water, cups of water, cups of anything the players could get their hands on.
"It [water] was real cold. I couldn't catch my breath," the New York Jets coach would say later in front of his locker. "I almost had a heart attack."
Coslet did manage to sneak in a few words to the players amid the hysteria. Then, before leaving to towel off, Coslet told them, "Normal Monday, guys."
They all laughed.
The Jets still have a Monday that means something because, yesterday, in a mini-playoff game at Joe Robbie Stadium, they delivered one of the more memorable Sundays in franchise history.
They made the playoffs for the first time since 1986 with a stirring, come-from-behind, 23-20, overtime win over the Miami Dolphins. "Unbelievable," Coslet called it.
The ice-water celebration was fitting, because the Jets played as though they had the stuff in their veins.
There was the do-or-die drive at the end of regulation, in which the Jets, unshaken by Ferrell Edmunds' 1-yard touchdown reception from Dan Marino with 44 seconds left, tied it on Raul Allegre's 44-yard field goal as time expired. Then, in overtime, Ken O'Brien and Johnny Hector led the Jets 65 yards, setting up Allegre's game-winner from 30 yards.
Just like that, the Jets ended a three-game losing streak and saved themselves from a total December collapse. The Jets (8-8) captured the final wild-card berth, and will face the AFC Central champion Houston Oilers (11-5) Saturday or Sunday at the Astrodome. The Dolphins (8-8) finished with two consecutive losses, letting the final playoff spot slip away.
The first tie-breaker for playoff berths is head-to-head games, and the Jets swept the Dolphins this season.
"It went down to the final game, then it went down to the final half, then it went down to the final quarter, then down to the final 48 seconds," Dolphins coach Don Shula said. "We couldn't stop them in the final 48 seconds, and we couldn't stop them in overtime."
"A lot of critics said we didn't deserve the opportunity to be here," cornerback Mike Brim said. "This game was a statement )) for this team. The New York Jets can be a winning team, and don't have to give it up in crunch time."
"From now on, nothing is insurmountable for this team," said offensive tackle Irv Eatman, puffing on a victory cigar.
What said it best was the message the Jets taped on the wall in the trainer's room:
Translation: Seize the day.
Several players in particular heeded the plea. Hector, 31, afforded more playing time because of a second-quarter ankle injury to Blair Thomas, rushed for 132 of the team's 231 yards. The other Geritol back, Freeman McNeil, 32, added 55 big yards.
And there was O'Brien, who hit three crunch-time passes, including a gorgeous 29-yarder to Rob Moore to set up Allegre's game-winner. And don't forget linebacker Joe Kelly, who intercepted Dan Marino at the Miami 3 in the fourth quarter.
"The old guys came through for us," defensive end Marvin Washington said. "I don't know if they took their Geritol or what."
For a while, it looked as though the Jets would need Alka-Seltzer. They saw a 17-13 lead evaporate with 44 seconds left, as Marino, living up to his legend as a big-game player,
tossed the touchdown pass to Maryland alumnus Edmunds.
Talk about drama. It was a fourth-and-goal from the 1, each team's season hanging like the hot Miami air. During the timeout, defensive tackle Dennis Byrd went to each player and told him, "One more play. One more play."
The Dolphins called a pass, and Marino found Edmunds uncovered in the back of the end zone.
The Jets returned the ensuing kickoff to the 38. O'Brien hit Moore for 23 yards and Terance Mathis for 14. With eight seconds left, McNeil ran a delay draw for 7 yards, and alertly got out of bounds with two seconds left.
In came Allegre. The newest Jet, whose previous NFL stopwere with the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants and who was signed Tuesday to replace the injured Pat Leahy, hit the 44-yarder to force overtime. The Jets were saved by someone they barely know.
"I was a little nervous, because I didn't know what the guy wagoing to do," defensive end Jeff Lageman said, "but he came up big."
So did the Jets defense, shutting down the Dolphins in overtime. The Dolphins won the coin toss, but went four-and-out. The Jets took over at their 23, and continued to tear up the porous Dolphins defense.
Hector had runs of 16 and 12 yards. McNeil ran for 5 yards on third-and-two out of shotgun formation. Then, O'Brien stepped up, delivering his biggest play of the season. With blitzing linebacker Mike Reichenbach in his face, O'Brien hit Moore on a corner route at the Dolphins' 8. After three plays and a pass-interference penalty on Al Toon, Allegre came in. Undaunted by the Dolphins' attempt to freeze him with a timeout, Allegre made the winning field goal.
NFL Week 17
Eagles 24.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Redskins 22
Cowboys 31.. .. .. .. .. .. . Falcons 27
Steelers 17.. .. .. .. .. .. .Browns 10
Lions 17.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .Bills 14,OT
Buccaneers 17.. .. .. .. .. . Colts 3
Bengals 29.. .. .. .. .. .. . Patriots 7
Jets 23.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Dolphins 20,OT
Chiefs 27.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Raiders 21
Saints 27.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Cardinals 3
Broncos 17.. .. .. .. .. .. . Chargers 14
4( Seahawks 23.. .. .. .. .. .. .Rams 9