Joe Namath, Jumbo Elliott, NY Jets, Top 10 Plays, History
Joe Namath, Jumbo Elliott, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

The results were not unanimous, but we still managed to find the consensus list of Top 10 NY Jets plays

Ranking the top 10 plays in the history of the New York Jets is not an easy task.

After all, despite the franchise’s 50+ years of championship futility, there have been many sweet moments along the way.

When you’re talking about the top plays and not the top moments, the debate becomes murkier. Can a two-yard TD run be considered a ‘top play’?

Let’s see what Jets fans thought. Here are your Top 10 plays in New York Jets history, as chosen by you, the fans.

10. 1968: Don Maynard’s 87-yard touchdown reception

Don Maynard is the greatest receiver in New York Jets history. He remains the lone Hall of Fame WR to have played primarily with the Jets/Titans franchise.

He holds the team record for receptions (627), yards (11,732), and touchdowns (88). Maynard remains tied for 14th all-time in TD receptions, which is incredible considering the explosion of passing over the years.

Maynard’s whopping 18.7 yards per reception showcases the dynamic duo that he and QB Joe Namath made.

To correct a typo in the original poll, Maynard’s long touchdown reception from Namath went for 87 yards, not 90. But I don’t believe the three-yard difference would have changed fans’ minds.

9. Joe McKnight’s 107-yard kickoff return touchdown in Week 4 of the 2011 season vs. the Ravens, the longest play in team history

The late Joe McKnight was a second-year player in 2011, trying to continue the Jets legacy of great kickoff returners. He followed the likes of Justin Miller, Leon Washington, and Brad Smith, all return heroes in the second half of the 2000-2010 decade.

In 2011, the NFL moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35 in an attempt to limit the number of kick returns and thereby prevent injuries. It became that much harder to return kicks since many of them traveled out of the end zone or, at minimum, more than five yards deep.

McKnight flashed equal kick return ability to his predecessors with his 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (cannot be embedded due to a copyright claim by the NFL). This is the longest play in team history, which, presumably, made fans choose it for the Top 10 list.

During the 2011 season, McKnight averaged 31.6 yards per return, which led the NFL.

8. Curtis Martin’s game-winning option pass to Wayne Chrebet beats the Bucs in a Week 4 matchup in 2000

This play was not on the original list, but it was pointed out as missing. Apparently, many other fans agreed that this was a great one.

The Jets were going up against their former No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson and the Buccaneers. After trailing 17-6 at the two-minute warning, the Jets scored a touchdown on a quick outlet pass to RB Curtis Martin. The team then converted the two-point conversion to Laveranues Coles to pull within 17-14.

After the Jets kicked the ball back to Tampa, linebacker Marvin Jones forced a Mike Alstott fumble inside the Bucs 25-yard line, and the Jets recovered with 1:39 left on the clock.

On the very next play, quarterback Vinny Testaverde handed the ball on a counter to Martin, who flung it to WR Wayne Chrebet. Chrebet made a leaping catch in the end zone to give the Jets the lead.

Besides the allure of the option pass, this was a legitimately difficult throw for a running back. While there was space in the back of the end zone, Chrebet had a defender relatively nearby. Martin was blasted immediately after releasing the ball. Chrebet had to leap to extend his 5’10” frame enough to secure the catch.

The Jets sealed the 21-17 come-from-behind victory with a strip-sack of Bucs QB Shaun King. It was one of the best two-minute comebacks in team history, topped by a phenomenal play from two of their all-time greats.

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7. Braylon Edwards’s 80-yard TD catch gives the Jets the lead in the second quarter of the 2009 AFC Championship Game vs. the Colts

This reception is one of the great largely-overlooked moments in team history. Because the Jets lost the 2009 AFC Championship Game to the heavily-favored Colts, it’s easy to forget that they were once leading the game 17-6.

The Jets went on an improbable playoff run that included winning five out of their last six regular-season games and two road playoff games. The run was aided largely by an early-season trade for WR Braylon Edwards.

In the AFC Championship, the Jets trailed 3-0 to start the second quarter. 2009 No. 5 overall pick QB Mark Sanchez lined up at his own 20-yard line. He dropped back after play-action, pumped once, and heaved a ball to the Colts’ 40-yard line, where Edwards caught it and outraced the Colts cornerback the remaining way to the end zone.

It was one of the most exciting plays in recent Jets memory. Although it was overshadowed by the team’s eventual 30-17 defeat, for a while, Jets fans believed.

6. October 18, 2011: Darrelle Revis’s 100-yard interception return vs. the Dolphins on Monday Night Football

To me, this one smacks of recency bias. There were other long TD returns on the list, including Aaron Glenn‘s 100-yard pick-six of Dan Marino. Still, this is what the fans chose.

Perhaps because it was against the hated Dolphins. Maybe because it was on Monday Night Football. The Rex Ryan era could have contributed, as well.

Any way you slice it, this was during a season in which the Jets were still competing for a playoff spot. They came into Week 6 of the 2011 season with a 2-3 record, having lost their previous three games after a 2-0 start.

In the first quarter, Miami took a 3-0 lead and then recovered the following kickoff after a Jets miscue. On third down from the 15-yard line, Dolphins QB Matt Moore attempted a throw to Brandon Marshall in the end zone. Darrelle Revis picked it off and raced 100 yards for the score, flipping the momentum of the game.

Although then-ESPN analyst Jon Gruden expressed surprise that no defensive pass interference was called on Revis, Marshall was a receiver known for his own pushing off. The referees kept their flags away, letting the future Hall of Fame CB return the second pick-six of his career.

The Jets won the game, 24-6, to improve to 3-3 on the season.

5. Wesley Walker’s four TD catches against the Dolphins, including the game-winner in overtime, help the Jets beat Miami, 51-45

Although this is technically four plays rather than one, to simply zoom in on the game-winning score without mentioning the total accomplishment would be sacrilegious. That’s how dominant Walker was in this game.

Wesley Walker was perhaps the best deep threat in Jets history, rivaled only by Don Maynard. Walker edged Maynard with 19.0 yards per reception, totaling 438 receptions, 8,306 yards, and 71 TDs in his 13-year Jets career.

Walker’s accomplishments are that much more remarkable when you consider that he was legally blind in one eye due to a congenital cataract. Perhaps none of his feats are more stunning, though, than what he put up against Miami in 1986.

It was Week 3 of the 1986 season. The Jets and QB Ken O’Brien were going up against the dominant QB they had passed on in the 1983 draft, Dan Marino. Marino was already established as the cream of the crop at the quarterback position, having set the single-season yardage and passing touchdown records in 1984, which was just his second season.

In a bizarre back-and-forth shootout, O’Brien and Walker matched Marino throw for throw, catch for catch. The seeming highlight came when Walker caught a game-tying 20-yard TD between three defenders with no time left on the clock, forcing overtime.

But Walker was not done shocking the Dolphins. On a first and ten play from the Miami 43, O’Brien faked the handoff to Johnny Hector and dropped back. He threw a low-arcing laser to Walker, who gained a step on the defensive back and caught it for a game-winning touchdown. The final score was 51-45.

That win would be the first of nine consecutive victories for the Jets, who stumbled down the stretch and lost in heartbreaking fashion to Cleveland in the AFC Divisional Round that season.

4. December 27, 2015: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws the game-winning TD to Eric Decker to beat the Patriots in overtime

Most Jets fans will remember this one clearly: the last time the Jets were relevant. It is the pinnacle of the last ten years, the time when hope was still alive. The franchise and its fans knew that it was a temporary run, not built to last. Still, there was excitement at what a potential playoff berth could do.

The 2015 Jets were in flux. Gone were Rex Ryan and the awful John Idzik. In were Todd Bowles, a first-time head coach, and Mike Maccagnan, a first-time GM who was more of an accountant than a football guy.

Geno Smith was supposed to be the team’s starting quarterback, but a well-placed punch by IK Enemkpali (who was immediately cut) left journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, ‘The Beard,’ with the keys to the car.

The Jets already had Eric Decker on board and signed Brandon Marshall in the hopes of fielding a competent passing game.

No one could have predicted that Fitzpatrick and his two receivers would go on a run, setting Jets records along the way. FitzMagic finished the season with 31 TDs, the only Jets quarterback to ever exceed the 30 touchdown threshold. Marshall and Decker each put up over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdown receptions.

The team, after starting 5-5, was now 9-5 and playing New England at home. If they won the game, it would set up a win-and-you’re-in scenario in Buffalo against their former coach, Rex Ryan, the following week.

The Jets led 17-3 at the 9:13 mark of the third quarter, but Tom Brady did what he does best. After his pass to James White tied the game with 1:55 remaining, the Jets failed to get in field goal range, and the game went into overtime.

In one of those bizarre Belichickian moments, the G.O.A.T. coach Bill Belichick decided to kick off after winning the coin toss. His explanation was that he felt his defense could stop the Jets and leave the Patriots needing only a field goal to win the game.

However, special teams guru and captain Matthew Slater said that the Patriots “want to kick” rather than indicating which end they wanted to defend, which allowed the Jets to choose the direction that they would receive. Belichick was furious, but his plan backfired in his face.

After receiving the kickoff to begin OT, the Jets methodically marched down the field. Quincy Enunwa broke a 51-yard catch-and-run down the sideline, setting Gang Green up deep in Patriots territory. A few plays later, Fitzpatrick lobbed a six-yard TD pass to Eric Decker, setting MetLife Stadium ablaze with elation.

The Jets beat the Patriots, 26-20, to control their own destiny the following week. Alas, the party rudely ended in Buffalo, 22-17, when FitzMagic turned back into a pumpkin.

That was the last time the Jets have come near playoff conversation. Still, it was a fun moment and will forever go down in franchise lore.

3. Santonio Holmes’s diving toe-tap TD catch in the AFC Divisional Round helps the Jets beat the Patriots

Another moment against the Patriots. Nothing can be sweeter than beating Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on their own turf.

Throw in a playoff game, and you’ve got the best moment in most Jets fans’ memories, as only older ones have seen a Super Bowl.

The Jets were trying to get over the Championship Game hump in 2010 after losing to the Colts in 2009. They acquired former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who made critical catch after critical catch throughout the season and led the Jets to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.

After gaining their revenge against the Colts the prior week, 17-16, the Jets faced their stiffest task yet, going up against the 14-2 Patriots.

With the Jets clinging to a 14-11 edge in the fourth quarter, QB Mark Sanchez lobbed a fade from the seven-yardline. Holmes executed a perfect dive and toe-tap, landing on a knee and foot in the end zone to help widen the Jets lead to 21-11.

It was reminiscent of Holmes’s Super Bowl-winning catch in the 2008 season and led the Jets to the upset victory, 28-21. This may be the best moment in team history, save the Super Bowl victory.

2. 1968 AFL Championship: Joe Namath hits Don Maynard to set up the go-ahead touchdown, then follows with the TD

Jets WR Don Maynard said to QB Joe Namath, “Joe, I’ve got a long one when you need it.” (Per NFL Films, America’s Game)

Namath: “I told the team that I was going to call one play, but be alert for the audible that I’d go to if Maynard’s situation presented itself. In other words, if the DB Atkinson climbed up in bump-and-run.

We got up there, boy, and sure enough… Atkinson climbed up on Don.”

Namath had thrown a pick to give the Raiders the lead, 23-20, in the 1968-69 AFL Championship Game. According to Maynard, this was the real championship; the Super Bowl was in its nascency, nowhere near the spectacle of today.

Namath checked to the audible and lobbed a picture-perfect pass, which Maynard caught over the shoulder, a la Willie Mays.

“It was the greatest catch I ever made. Don’t run it back, because I might miss it,” said Maynard with a smile.

With the Jets set up at the Oakland eight, Namath dropped back again, looked towards George Sauer, ducked, turned the other way, and found Maynard again for the go-ahead score with 7:47 to go in the game.

The Jets won, 27-23, and the rest is history.

1. Jumbo Elliott completes the comeback during the Monday Night Miracle

The Jets trailed the Dolphins, 30-7, heading into the fourth quarter of their Week 8 matchup.

Fans at Giants Stadium headed for the exits in disbelief.

Then the Jets started marching back.

First, it was a circus, in-his-hands, out-of-his-hands, in-his-hands touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles over Sam Madison. (As Dan Fouts said on the broadcast, “That’s why some guys play defense and some guys play offense.”) A two-point conversion attempt failed.

After a defensive stop, QB Vinny Testaverde drove the team down and scored on a toss to Jermaine Wiggins with a little under 10 minutes to go. The score was 30-20.

Miami went three-and-out on their next drive. The Jets got the ball back and drove down for a field goal. 30-23 with five minutes remaining. At that point, Miami still had an 89% win probability.

The Dolphins went three-and-out once more, punctuated by a sack at the six yardline by Brian Cox. A shanked punt gave the Jets field position inside the Miami 40.

A few plays later, Testaverde lobbed a 25-yard TD to Wayne Chrebet on a beautiful throw and catch. The game was tied, 30-30, with four minutes remaining on the clock.

Of course, the Dolphins didn’t just lie down. The win probability was still in their favor, at 65%. After a kick return into Jets territory, QB Jay Fiedler threw a 46-yard bomb to Leslie Sheppard for a TD with three-and-a-half minutes left. Miami 37, New York 30.

The Jets came roaring back once more, driving the ball downfield with receptions out of the backfield from Curtis Martin and Richie Anderson. On second-and-goal from the Miami three, Testaverde faked the ball to Martin and threw an off-balance lob.

Offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott, who was lined up as a tackle-eligible on the play, made a juggling catch in the end zone to complete the comeback once more. After a booth review, the call on the field stood. 37-37.

This is the play chosen by Jets fans as the greatest in team history. I have to say, this one surprised me. Perhaps it was a bias because the play was listed near the top.

But I think it’s just the memory of the Monday Night Miracle that needed a clinching moment, and the game-tying catch by an offensive lineman is it.

The Jets eventually won the game, 40-37, on a 40-yard field goal by kicker John Hall. The OT period featured plenty of antics, including a strong kick return, a fumbled pick leading to reclaimed possession and a first down, another pick, and a near-pick. This game ended at 1:20 AM.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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1 year ago

I think Lance Mehl sealing the playoff victory over the LA Raiders with an interception in the playoffs in 1983 is an often overlooked moment. The Raiders still had a mystique about them and to beat them on the road was huge. Then the next week, Don Shula cheated by not covering the field in the Orange Bowl…

Brooklyn Boy In Exile
Brooklyn Boy In Exile
1 year ago

I still think Todd-to-Barkum with 21 seconds left to beat Miami in 1981, which put the Jets on their way to the playoffs for the first time in years, should be in there. But hard to argue with the results.

1 year ago

Good choices above, but I agree with you. What a great moment!