Testaverde flies high as Jet Ex-Raven 4-0 in N.Y. after win over Falcons

October 26, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It took 12 years, four cities and countless start-overs, but Vinny Testaverde finally found a place where he can win in the NFL.

Here in the shadow of the Big Apple, Testaverde has shaken a nasty habit of making the big mistake. Whether this is a temporary reprieve or a permanent remake, only time will tell.

But yesterday's error-free performance in a 28-3 thrashing of the injury-riddled Atlanta Falcons elevated Testaverde to a place where no other New York Jets quarterback -- including Joe Namath -- has ever gone at the start of his Jets career.

On a day when the Ravens' touchdown-less streak ended at 13 quarters, Testaverde threw his 10th and 11th touchdown passes of the season. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 206 yards with no turnovers. He has guided the Jets (4-3) to all four of their victories and suffered none of the losses. He has thrown only one interception. The job that once was Glenn Foley's now is unquestionably his.

Is this fun or what?

"I feel very comfortable with the scheme and the things we're running," Testaverde said. "The most important thing is, we're winning. That's what makes it so much fun."

Testaverde, the starting quarterback with the Ravens most of his two seasons in Baltimore before he was released last summer, didn't spend much time looking back yesterday.

Asked the difference between New York and Baltimore, he was as succinct as his performance.

"There's a big difference. The coaching philosophies are different, the cities are different," he said, without elaboration.

He also said he does not find any vindication as a result of Baltimore's struggling offense. "I haven't thought about Baltimore," he said. "I'm not part of that organization. I don't even care. That's an honest answer."

The old Testaverde would have come apart when Jets receivers dropped four catchable passes in the first quarter against a suspect Atlanta secondary.

The new Testaverde completed seven of eight passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away early.

The AFC's leading passer coming into Week 8, Testaverde should hold that spot into next week's crucible at Kansas City.

"Is he leading the league?" wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "That's good for Vinny. I'm excited to have him as my quarterback. Next week we go into a hostile environment and he needs to show it one more time."

Testaverde had a lot going for him against the Falcons. Not the least of his assets was running back Curtis Martin, who gouged out 101 yards and one touchdown. It was the first 100-yard rushing game the Falcons had allowed since Week 8 a year ago, a span of 15 games.

Secondly, there was the Atlanta offense. Under 44-year-old Steve DeBerg, the oldest player ever to start a game in modern NFL history, it bore no resemblance to the offense under Chris Chandler, sidelined with a sore left shoulder and ribs.

DeBerg completed nine of 20 passes for 117 yards and two turnovers -- both of which resulted in touchdowns for the Jets. He not only coughed the ball up on a second-quarter sack by Victor Green, but also had the added insult of watching Jerome Henderson bolt to a 53-yard touchdown with the recovery.

"It seemed nothing went the way we had hoped it would," DeBerg said. "From top to bottom, it seemed we were out-performed, from the playing side of it, to the coaching side of it, pretty much the whole deal."

Atlanta's only points came on a 53-yard Morten Andersen field goal on the last play of the first half.

Testaverde drove the Jets 65 yards in 10 plays on their first possession of the second half, finishing with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Johnson in the right corner.

"It was there all day long," Johnson said. "We finally got back to it. I was telling Vinny all day long it was there, and he finally hit me."

After starting 0-2 under Foley, the Jets are tied for second in the AFC East.

"We still have a long way to go," Testaverde said. "I'm not going to sit here and say we're over the hump. We're not a good enough team to ease off and think that we don't have to do the extra things to get ready. We still do."

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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