CLEVELAND — The New York Jets pulled off one of the most improbable wins in recent NFL history, capitalizing on a series of Cleveland Browns blunders in the final two minutes Sunday at First Energy Stadium — none bigger than Nick Chubb‘s touchdown that shouldn’t have been.
The Jets scored two touchdowns in the final 82 seconds for a 31-30 victory, becoming the first team in 21 years to overcome a 13-point deficit in the final two minutes to win a game. The Chicago Bears did it against the Browns in 2001.
Jets coach Robert Saleh said the miracle comeback was “something crazy,” a sentiment echoed throughout the team’s locker room.
“I don’t know where it ranks, but it’s up there,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, a 15-year veteran who threw four touchdowns, including the game winner to rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds left.
Some perspective: From Week 9 of 2002 (the week after the Browns’ collapse against the Bears) to Week 1 of the current season, teams had lost 2,229 consecutive games when trailing by at least 13 points in the final two minutes.
It was pure devastation for the Browns, who blew a chance to be 2-0 for the first time since 1993. The packed house went crazy when Chubb scored his third touchdown with 1:55 left, a 12-yard run to make it 30-17. However, he should have stopped short of the end zone. If he had done that, the Browns could have run out the clock because the Jets had no timeouts remaining.
The Jets said they were surprised by Chubb’s mental error, saying it sparked their emotions. The Browns were crushed. Coach Kevin Stefanski took the blame.
“That is a scenario where that is on me to communicate that to the huddle,” he said. “We’ve done that before. Having said that, we need to close that game out.”
Chubb didn’t stick around to speak with reporters.
Cornerback D.J. Reed was upset with himself that he missed the tackle on Chubb, not realizing it was the right play.
“I’ve never been so happy for a missed tackle in my life,” Saleh said. “That was our only chance.”
From there, the Browns imploded with a handful of key mistakes. Kicker Cade York missed the extra point, and moments later, their secondary committed a massive coverage gaffe. Wide receiver Corey Davis was left wide open on a 66-yard touchdown pass, making it 30-24 with 1:22 to play.
“When I threw it, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh … nobody is even near him,'” said Flacco, who completed 26 of 44 passes for 307 yards — the first Jets quarterback since Vinny Testaverde in 2000 to pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett said, “Those kind of plays are unacceptable. Without a doubt. … It’s tough. We let up on defense. I guess really the whole team let up in the 11th hour.”
Garrett was critical of the home fans, too, saying, “The more disappointing thing was the booing at the end. It was not the most optimal ending to have.”
Next was an onside kick, recovered by Jets special teams captain Justin Hardee. Punter Braden Mann, handling the kickoff duties, booted a sidewinder that was difficult to handle. The Jets pounced on it.
“The onsides kick, with the new rules, have been so rare,” Saleh said. “Once that happened, there was no doubt we were scoring once we got the ball.”
The Jets took over at their 47-yard line with 1:20 to play. Flacco was dinking and dunking until a third-and-10, when he fired a 15-yard scoring strike to Wilson over the middle with 25 seconds left. It capped a brilliant day for the former Ohio State star, who caught eight passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
“They were playing so soft that I was throwing that ball no matter what,” Flacco said.
It was a moment of sweet redemption for Wilson, who dropped a third-down pass earlier in the quarter. He said he began celebrating when the onside kick was recovered.
“I went absolutely crazy on the sideline,” he said. “I didn’t want my drop to be the reason why we lost the game.”
The Jets almost gave away the lead. The Browns nearly drove into field goal range, with a 21-yard scramble by Jacoby Brissett putting the ball on their 46 with 12 seconds left. Then, on the final play, he was intercepted by seldom-used safety Ashtyn Davis.
Incredibly, a few Jets players thought the game was tied at that point, thinking York had made the extra point. For a fleeting moment, linebacker C.J. Mosley couldn’t understand why Davis slid to the ground on his return instead of trying for more yards. Reed said he thought the same thing. When he realized they had won, it felt that much sweeter.
“My God,” he said, “this game was like a movie.”
ESPN’s Jake Trotter contributed to this report.