Defense, Testaverde propel Jets, 34-12 QB throws for 3 TDs

Bills, Flutie stifled

November 09, 1998|By NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Flutie Flakes aren't just for breakfast anymore. At the New York Jets' defensive meeting Saturday night, coordinator Bill Belichick delighted his players by unveiling a box of western New York's hottest cereal.

They sampled the sugary concoction as they reviewed the game plan on how to stop the Buffalo Bills' magical quarterback. Subliminal motivation?

"Somebody was saying they wanted to get the real Flutie, that they didn't want the flakes," Jets defensive back Corwin Brown said yesterday at Giants Stadium, recalling the snack-and-scheme session. "They wanted the real deal."

So they had him for lunch.

Belichick's ravenous defense, continuing its rapid ascent, chewed up Flutie and his band of miracle workers, lifting the Jets to a 34-12 victory. Flutie, replaced by Vinny Testaverde as the darling of the AFC, said it had been "a good five years since I've had to deal with one of these kind of beatings."

On this day, the 5-foot-9 quarterback was dwarfed by Testaverde, who maintained his perfect record as a starter (6-0) this season by throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

Led by Testaverde, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (seven catches, 95 yards) and the cereal-killing defense, the Jets (6-3) overcame three first-half turnovers to win their fourth straight, their longest winning streak since 1993 and only the second time since 1986 they've won four in a row.

The Jets, having won six out of seven, remained atop the AFC East. They're tied with the Dolphins and are one game ahead of the Bills and Patriots.

"The possibilities are endless," fullback Keith Byars said. "One of my goals is to get in the playoffs before Week 16. We could be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Hey, there's no rule written that says Denver can't go 5-3 in the second half."

Predictably, coach Bill Parcells downplayed the run, which includes a 4-0 record in the division -- the first time since 1978 they've won their first four division games.

"I've been down this road before," Parcells said. "They're not sending any two dozen roses over here today. If they do, I'm sending them back."

His defense deserved a bouquet, stifling Flutie (12-for-30, 154 yards) and running back Antowain Smith (37 yards) and holding the Bills to four field goals. This was the same Buffalo offense that had been averaging 27 points over five-game winning streak.

Flutie, 36, who began the day as the highest-rated passer in the AFC, was intercepted twice and sacked twice.

How did the Jets do it? The secondary played more man-to-man coverage than usual, the front seven did a terrific job of keeping the slippery Flutie in the pocket and reserve linebacker James Farrior was deployed at times as a "spy" in a newfangled 4-4-3 scheme.

"It wasn't easy shutting down that guy," linebacker Bryan Cox said of Flutie. "That little son of a buck is tough."

Testaverde (22-for-31) was intercepted on his first pass, and Jerald Sowell, who replaced Curtis Martin for two series, lost two fumbles. But the Bills were able to convert the three turnovers into only three points.

"Our defense responded very well to quite a bit of adversity," Parcells said.

Then Testaverde took over, hitting three different receivers for touchdowns -- Johnson (25 yards), Dedric Ward (36) and Wayne Chrebet (12).

"The first play was a little rough, but I thought he did a terrific job," Parcells said of Testaverde, who now has 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. "Everything we asked him to do, he did well."

Pub Date: 11/09/98

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