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New York Jets Throwback Thursday: Clinching the AFC East

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Rick Stewart/Getty Images

On December 19th, 1998, the New York Jets had a chance to do something they have never done before: win the AFC East. The elusive title had haunted the Jets and its fans ever since that magical run in '69, watching the Dolphins win it 11 times, the Bills win it 7 times, the Colts win it 5 times, and the Patriots win it 4 times. And then Bill Parcells came along after Rich Kotite's pair of 3-13 and 1-15 seasons and turned it all around. Coming into the game, the Jets had lost 3 straight and 8 of their last 10 at newly named Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. If they could change their fortunes and pull out a win, they would guarantee the AFC East title.

The Bills received the ball first and quarterback Doug Flutie would orchestrate a productive opening drive, finding Eric Moulds for a 28-yard gain into Jets territory. 2 plays later, running back Antowain Smith fumbled at the Jets 23-yard line and it was recovered by Jets linebacker Pepper Johnson (Jets current D-line coach). Vinny Testaverde would capitalize on the turnover, marching the Jets down the field and throwing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Chrebet for an early 7-0 Jets lead.

A few drives later, Flutie worked the Bills down the field and this time found Thurman Thomas on a 25-yard touchdown pass. Tie ball game, 7-7. The Jets offense stalled for the rest of the half and were fortunate Bills kicker Steve Christie missed a 28-yard field goal to end the second quarter.

On the opening drive of the second half, Testaverde completed two key passes to Keyshawn Johnson to put the Jets within field goal range. On a cold, windy day in Buffalo, kicker John Hall made an impressive 48-yard field goal to give the Jets a 10-7 lead. Buffalo would answer right back though and Steve Christie avenged his early miss with a 44-yard field goal to tie the game again.

The very next drive for the Jets would hold one of the best plays of the season. After hitting Keyshawn Johnson on a quick 9-yard pass, Testaverde would find Dedric Ward on a 71-yard bomb to give the Jets a 17-10 lead late in the 3rd quarter. A few drives later, Flutie got the Bills into Jets territory set to tie the game for the 3rd time. With 3:52 to go, Flutie was looking for receiver Kevin Williams, but Williams could not hang on. Instead, the ball ended up in the diving hands of Jets safety Victor Green--sort of. The call on the field was an interception, but several replays showed that the ball actually hit the ground. Since replay review was abandoned after the 1991 season, the call stood on the field. Not every day a bounce or a call goes the Jets way, so we're sure as heck not going to apologize for that one.

The Jets would hang on to win 17-10 to capture their first ever AFC East title. The Jets had not yet clinched a first round bye and home field advantage; they needed Jacksonville to lose either of their last two games against the Vikings or Steelers, OR the Jets needed to win their final regular season game against the Patriots. The Jaguars would go on to lose the next week 50-10 to the Vikings and the Jets defeated the Patriots for a franchise record 12 wins.