CLEVELAND — A strange thing happened on the New York Jets‘ bench Sunday when they fell behind by 13 points on Nick Chubb‘s touchdown run with 1:55 remaining in their game against the Cleveland Browns. They started to believe a miracle comeback was possible.
“They gave us our only chance,” receivers coach Miles Austin yelled to his players amid the din of a roaring FirstEnergy Stadium — a sentiment shared by the entire sideline.
At that point, the Cleveland Browns had a win probability of 99.9%, according to ESPN Analytics. The Jets took their 0.1% and ran with it, pulling out a win for the ages, 31-30. They scored two touchdowns to become the first team since the 2001 Chicago Bears to win after trailing by 13 points in the final two minutes.
Six plays swung the game from a near-certain Cleveland victory to the Jets’ biggest win since 2015, their last winning season. A closer look at six plays than spanned 115 fateful seconds:
Chubb rumbles around left end for a 12-yard touchdown, eluding cornerback D.J. Reed in the backfield and breaking a tackle attempt by safety Lamarcus Joyner at the 1-yard line. It turns out to be a mistake. Chubb should’ve stopped short of the end zone, which would’ve allowed the Browns to run out the clock. The Jets had no timeouts remaining. Score: Browns 30, Jets 17. Jets’ probability to lose: 99.9%.
Jets coach Robert Saleh: “I’ve never been so happy for a missed tackle in my life. That was our only chance.”
Reed: “It happened at the right time [smiles]. Serious, though: Chubb is probably the best running back to play the game. Lot of respect for that dude.”
Jets quarterback Joe Flacco: “Obviously, when he scores, you’re thinking, ‘OK, that is not what he’s supposed to do.’ But I’m sure [the Browns] are thinking, ‘OK, it’s 30-17.'”
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski: “That’s on me to communicate that to the huddle. Having said that, we need to close that game out.”
After Chubb’s touchdown, Browns rookie Cade York — the hero after last week’s game-winning field goal from 58 yards — misses the extra point. Another opening for the Jets.
York: “I thought I hit it good. … I was upset that I missed, and I thought I hit it well off the foot. I do not know why it took off right on me. Definitely was not a thought [it would cost us the game]. You just can’t get ahead of yourself in the NFL. Games are so close that you have to make everything that you can.”
On the ensuing possession, Flacco finds a wide-open Corey Davis down the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown with 1:22 remaining. It’s a busted coverage by the Browns. Cornerback Denzel Ward passes off Davis, perhaps thinking he has deep help — except there is none. Safety Grant Delpit is cheating toward the middle of the field, picking up receiver Garrett Wilson. Score: Browns 30, Jets 24. Jets’ probability to lose: 98.7%.
Davis: “It was a double move. I’m not sure [what happened]. I think they busted and we scored and we won.”
Flacco: “When I threw it, it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh … no one is anywhere near him.’ It was really a weird feeling because of how quiet it got down in there. Obviously, we’re in Cleveland, so it makes sense, but that feeling was something I’d never felt before, how quiet it actually got out there.”
Stefanski: “Obviously guys [were] not on the same page. It was very, very clear what we’re doing. We talked about it on the sideline, before everybody went out. We talked to the entire defense about what they’re about to do, which was try to throw it over our head. We can’t let that happen.”
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett: “I can’t explain it. Those kind of plays are unacceptable.”
Browns safety John Johnson III: “You want to be an elite team … things like that can’t happen. It’s unacceptable.”
On the ensuing kickoff, the Jets execute the perfect onside play, with Braden Mann uncorking a hard-to-catch sidewinder that was recovered by the Jets’ Justin Hardee. Will Parks plays a key role, blasting Amari Cooper just as the ball arrives. It creates a mad scramble. Jets’ probability to lose: 81.2%.
Hardee: “We were going out for the play and my guy Will Parks was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna smack Amari Cooper. I’m gonna keep the ball alive for you all.’ Once the ball was twirling around, all I see is the guy who was supposed to catch it — and missed it. Another guy, it bounced off his hands. Once it touched my hands, it wasn’t going nowhere else. … I have never been part of a play like that.”
Saleh: “The onsides kick, with the new rules, have been so rare. Once that happened, there was no doubt that we were going to score once we got the ball.”
Stefanski: “Well executed by them.”
After Hardee’s recovery, the Jets run eight plays before Flacco fires a 15-yard touchdown strike to Wilson, taking the lead with 22 seconds left. It’s Wilson’s second touchdown, capping an eight-catch, 102-yard day. Score: Jets 31, Browns 30. Jets’ probability to lose: 2.5%.
Reed: “[Wilson’s] got that Justin Jefferson vibe.”
Flacco: “When [offensive coordinator] Mike [LaFleur] called the play through my headset, I had a smile inside. That’s one of our staples. Their safeties were tight, but they were playing pretty soft. They were playing so soft that I was throwing that ball no matter what.”
Wilson: “I went crazy [after the onsides kick]. I’m sure there will be a TV clip. I went absolutely crazy on the sideline. I didn’t want my [earlier] drop to be the reason why we lost the game.”
The Browns get to their 46-yard line with 12 seconds left, needing one more long completion to get into field-goal range. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett throws for Cooper, but it’s intercepted by seldom-used safety Ashtyn Davis at the Jets’ 36 to seal the improbable comeback. Final score: Jets 31, Browns 30.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley: “Whew! There were a lot of emotions, enough to realize I didn’t even know we had won the game after the interception. There was a lot going on. … When Ashtyn got the interception, it was like, ‘No, we need more yards, don’t go down.’ I thought it was a tie game. I didn’t know they missed the extra point.”
Davis: “I’ll take ’em however I can get ’em. [Brissett] was staring down the dig [route], so I just jumped the window. It was pretty straightforward for me.”
It was Davis’ only defensive snap of the game.