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Jets 22 Bills 16: Words Fail

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

I don’t even know what you can say after a game like that. I’ve never left a Jets game feeling so thrilled and so heartbroken at the same time.

At kickoff even watching from home, you could feel an electricity that has been lacking at Jets games for a long time. Within a few plays, it felt like the carpet had been pulled out completely from all of us. After a long offseason of anticipation, Aaron Rodgers was gone.

Fans of other teams wouldn’t get it. This wasn’t about tonight’s game against the Bills. It wasn't about a season that seemed lost. It wasn't even really about Rodgers per se.

It was about how the worst thing imaginable always managed to find a way to happen to this team. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Nothing can ever go right for this franchise. And the few times it does, soon enough something always manages to go catastrophically wrong.

A Hall of Fame quarterback came to the Jets. What’s more, he wanted to come here. He was thrilled to take a leadership role on the team. He was going to end over five decades of torture. And within one series, he’s gone. It felt like the kind of script the laziest writer in Hollywood would author. Then the script would get rejected, and he’d get fired because of how lazy it was.

But that’s what happened to the Jets.

I couldn’t focus on the field in the first half of this game. I was too devastated. I honestly thought I left my guard up too high for the Jets to actually upset me. Yet there I was. I was mad at Duane Brown for whiffing on the block that led to Rodgers’ injury. I was mad at Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh for their failures to produce a competent enough offensive line that could keep Rodgers healthy for five freaking plays. I was mad at myself for letting my guard down.

At moments like this you can’t help but think about how objectively silly it is to be a sports fan. We spend hours and hours following men we never meet play a game. We let the outcomes of these games impact our moods. Why do we do it?

A few hours later the Jets provided the answer with one of the most inspiring wins I've ever seen. Through all of the pain. Through all of the routine, boring games. Every now and then you will see something that truly inspires you, like the Jets shaking off the injury of the team’s leader to beat one of the league’s top teams.

I bet any Jets fan who has been around for at least 24 years had their mind go back to one game the moment Rodgers went down. The parallels to Opening Day 1999 are eerie. The Jets were expected to contend for a Super Bowl that year. They lost their starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde to a season ending injury in the first half of their first game. The season was ruined. At least Vinny made it to the second quarter of that game.

People remember Testaverde’s injury. They also remember punter Tom Tupa replacing him and throwing two touchdown passes. What they forget is the Jets rallied from an 11 point deficit to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. They lost on a last second field goal.

I have no idea how the rest of 1999 would have unfolded had the Jets won that game against New England. But I always wondered whether a win that day could have galvanized the team. Overcoming a double digit second half deficit without your starting quarterback is at least the type of thing that can build some degree of confidence, right?

That is precisely what the Jets accomplished in this game. There are too many heroes to mention from Xavier Gipson to Breece Hall to Garrett Wilson to defensive lineman after defensive lineman. I am sure I am leaving some out.

I hope for the best when we get the definitive word on Aaron Rodgers. I certainly hope the injury is not as dire as early indications suggest.

No matter what happens, I can say this. The season is not over. Let me repeat. The Jets beat one of the NFL’s best teams without Aaron Rodgers. They also did it with a formula that looks a lot like the one that fueled their 5-2 start a year ago. Dominant defense, exceptional running from Breece Hall, and some timely contributions in big spots. And if they can somehow get Rodgers back this year, watch out. This could be a special mix.

We will find out how bad things are for Rodgers soon enough. There’s nothing we can do about it other than wait. We can’t control where things are. For now, enjoy one of the best Jets wins I have ever seen. Nights like this don’t come around often.