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Remembering the Chad Morton game: Jets, Bills, 2002 season opener

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 8: Running back Chad Morton #26 of the New York Jets walks off the field with a coach after his kickoff return abruptly ended the NFL game against the Buffalo Bills on September 8, 2002 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The Jets won in overtime 37-31.
(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The New York Jets will once again take on the Buffalo Bills in an NFL season opener, which reminds everybody of the Chad Morton game.

It’ll be the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in Week 1, yet again. For the second time in three seasons, these two AFC East teams will square off, including last year’s disheartening 17-16 loss at MetLife Stadium. The Jets also fell flat in 2017 in Orchard Park, by a final of 21-12.

Not every opener against Buffalo has turned up ugly. In 2012, they spanked the Bills at home, eight years after one of the most memorable season openers in Jets history.

The Chad Morton game.

Small, shifty Chad Morton returned not one but two kickoffs for touchdowns in Orchard Park to kick off the 2002 season.

The 37-31 road victory started Herm Edwards‘s sophomore campaign right. The matchup between Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe “drew” headline and, for the most part, it delivered.

Down one, Testaverde hit Wayne Chrebet for an 18-yard score at the 4:53 mark that eventually put the Jets up seven points (thanks to a two-point conversion). Bledsoe answered in dramatic fashion with just 34 seconds to go in regulation—a 29-yard strike to Eric Moulds.

It all set up Morton’s overtime special teams touchdown.

Remember, while Bledsoe enjoyed his first-ever Bills game (after the Tom Brady Super Bowl the year prior), this was Testaverde’s final Jets season-opening start as “the man.” After a 1-4 start in 2002, Chad Pennington eventually took over and led the team to a miraculous AFC East-winning 9-7 season that ended in a divisional-round loss to the Raiders in Oakland.

Testaverde finished the contest with 210 yards and 2 touchdowns (to no interceptions) on 24 of 30 passing). Bledsoe went for 271 and a score to 2 interceptions. Chrebet, who always enjoyed a magical connection with Testaverde, paced the Jets with 58 yards and a score on 5 grabs.

This coming September will mark the rubber match since this opening-season game. Instead of two aging veterans behind center, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen will battle it out in a matchup featuring two of the five first-round quarterbacks from the loaded 2018 class.

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