Veteran quarterback Matt Cassel will start on Saturday night for the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Jets. This will be Cassel's first start against the Jets in over seven seasons.
The quarterback actually made his first career start against the Jets in 2008 at the Meadowlands as a member of the New England Patriots. It was the week after Tom Brady tore his ACL which sidelined the future Hall of Famer for almost the entire 2008 season. Nine weeks later, the Jets traveled to Foxborough for a Thursday night game with their rivals. First place in the AFC East was on the line with both teams sporting a 6-3 record.
The Jets jumped all over the Patriots in the first half. A pair of Brett Favre touchdown passes and a Leon Washington 92 yard kickoff return for a touchdown helped stake New York to a 24-6 second quarter lead.
Cassel caught fire at that point. A 19 yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney cut New England's deficit to 24-13 at halftime. He wasn't done after that. A 10 yard touchdown strike to Ben Watson and a two point conversion made the score 24-21.
On the ensuing series, Jerricho Cotchery fumbled after a reception. New England recovered. A 17 yard Cassel scramble helped put the Pats in position to kick a tying field goal. Stephen Gostkowski connected from 47 yards to tie the score at 24. The Jets had blown an 18 point lead. Cassel was red hot. That 17 yarder was not his only scramble of the game. In addition to throwing for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, he was also New England's leading rusher that night with 68 yards on 8 carries..
Just when it seemed like nothing could go right for the Jets, Favre put together a 14 play drive aided by effective running by Thomas Jones and a third down holding penalty on the Pats. Jones scored a touchdown from 1 yard out, and the Jets were back in front.
The teams traded punts, and the Pats got the ball back on their own 38 with 1:04 left. Cassel took the Pats down the field in eight plays. With 1 second left on the clock, he found Randy Moss from 16 yards for a touchdown. Moss had beaten Ty Law, the former Patriot who the Jets had just signed that week. Moss only had 3 catches on the night, but that was a big one. Gostkowski's extra point sent the game to overtime. Now in addition to blowing an 18 point lead, the Jets had squandered control of the game a second time. The game was going to overtime.
The Jets won the coin toss, and Cassel was denied another chance. Favre put together another 14 play drive. The key play was a 16 yard completion to Dustin Keller on a third and 15 from his own 15. Favre hit another third down pass later on the drive. This set up a 34 yard field goal by Jay Feely to win the game.
The Jets took sole possession of first place. A week later, they went to Tennessee and beat the then undefeated Titans to move their record to 8-3. Unfortunately, Favre got banged up, and the Jets lost 4 of their last 5 to miss the Playoffs. The Miami Dolphins won the East. Favre retired at the end of the season (only to later unretire and sign with the Vikings), and Eric Mangini was fired.
Cassel's play in this game and for the rest of the season was good enough to make the Chiefs trade for him once Brady returned. His play was seldom as effective after leaving New England, and he bounced around the league.