Since the Seahawks moved from the AFC to the NFC in 2002, their meetings with the Jets are limited to once in four years. One memorable trip to the Meadowlands during the Jets’ terrific 1998 season is part of NFL lore and helped bring something back into the league many of us take for granted today.
The Jets entered their December game against the Seahawks playing great football at 8-4. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were 6-6 and in need of a win to help their Playoff hopes.
The Jets got off to a quick 7-0 lead, but touchdowns of 70 and 58 yards by Joey Galloway staked Seattle to a 14-7 lead. The Seahawks held the lead most of the way. A Ricky Waters 39 yard touchdown run late in the second quarter put the Seahawks up 21-10. The Jets rallied for a field goal before the half to cut it to 21-13 heading into the locker room.
Disaster struck for the Jets on the fourth play of the second half as Vinny Testaverde threw a 49 yard pick six to Anthony Simmons.
The Jets did respond with a 13 play drive capped by a 1 yard touchdown run by Curtis Martin to make the score 28-19.
A field goal made it 31-19 heading into the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth, Testaverde found Keyshawn Johnson for a 16 yard score, cutting the Seattle lead to 31-26.
The Jets got a huge three and out to force a punt. From there, they put together a 9 play drive, but Dedric Ward was stopped for a 5 yard gain on fourth and 9 with just under 5:00 left. Again the Jets’ defense rose to the occasion forcing another three and out, stuffing Waters on a third and 2. The Seahawks punted again.
Testaverde took over on his own 36 with 3:15 left. The Jets offense rolled to the Seattle 8 yard line in 6 plays, aided by an illegal contact penalty. The drive stalled there, however. Leon Johnson was stopped for 1 yard. Martin ran for 2. On third down there was an incompletion. Suddenly, the Jets needed a touchdown on fourth and goal from the 5 in the final minute, or the game would be lost.
What happened was this.
You might wonder why that play wasn’t overturned by a review. Well, you see, the NFL did not have an instant replay review system in 1998. The league had a version of reviews from 1986 through 1991 but then got rid of it. The touchdown stood. The Jets won the game and went on to win the AFC East at 12-4.
The Seahawks finished 8-8. They missed the Playoffs by one game. Their coach Dennis Erickson got fired for it. That one missed call might have cost a coach his job.
Of course, in a roundabout way things worked out for Seattle. Erickson’s dismissal led to a coaching search. The Seahawks hired Mike Holmgren, who lasted ten very successful years where he built them into a contender and took Seattle to a Super Bowl. Then he left. After one year of Jim Mora, Jr. they hired Pete Carroll who has built a golden age of Seahawks football. Who knows what happens if they win that game, and Erickson keeps his job? They certainly would not have gotten Holmgren.
This was the latest in a series of bad calls that led the league to adopt a review system for the 1999 season. Earlier in the year, a controversial overtime coin toss game the Lions the ball in overtime against the Steelers. Detroit won the game. Jerome Bettis said he called tails, while referee Phil Luckett claimed he said heads. Instant replay might not have helped there, but a few days later some suspect calls late in New England’s victory over Buffalo helped the Pats squeak out a last second win. After the Testerverde play happened, momentum built for a review system. While the system has been tweaked in the years since, it is largely the one you know today.
The Jets and Seahawks will forever be linked by that play.