Shonn Greene, NY Jets, Chargers, Playoffs
Shonn Greene, New York Jets, Getty Images

The only team that has lost to the New York Jets in the playoffs twice this century is the Chargers

Who is the New York Jets’ playoff MVP of the 2000s thus far?

One could legitimately argue that it’s Nate Kaeding.

Nate who?

No Jets fan of a certain age asks that question, though. We all know who Nate Kaeding is.

In fact, Nate Kaeding was my first introduction to the sweet, sweet, rare times when things go the Jets’ way. I was just 10 years old when the Jets and Chargers faced off in the AFC Wild Card playoffs on January 8, 2005. It was my first time following a football season from beginning to end with a full understanding of the nuances of the game.

Even such a sweet moment couldn’t come without initial heartbreak, though.

Who can forget Eric Barton’s roughing the passer penalty with seconds remaining in the game?

The Jets were up 17-10, and the Chargers appeared to fail on a fourth-and-goal from the two. However, a forearm to Drew Brees’ face from Barton gave the Chargers new life, which they cashed in with a touchdown to Antonio Gates.

In overtime, after the teams traded punts on the first two possessions, the Chargers took over at their own 30 and marched steadily downfield. They lined up for a 40-yard field goal, and I couldn’t take it. I left the room where my grandfather, my brother, and I were watching on a way-too-small screen. My young heart couldn’t bear it.

I can still remember that moment, 18 years later. From down the hall, I heard my grandfather shout, “He missed it!” There was new life. I couldn’t believe it.

The Jets then sealed Kaeding’s fate with a march of their own, culminating in a 28-yard game-winning kick from Doug Brien. Brien redeemed himself after missing a 33-yarder on the Jets’ opening drive of the game, although he went on to be the goat the next week in Pittsburgh.

You can watch the extended highlights of that game here. (I forgot that Al Michaels and John Madden were on the call!)

I will always remember that victory fondly notwithstanding the heartbreak that came later. People forget that the 2004-05 Jets were not expected to beat the Chargers. Drew Brees was coming off a phenomenal season, leading San Diego to a 12-4 record and a division title. It was a pretty big upset at the time.

Five years later…

If that first win over the Chargers was an upset, this one was a conquest.

The brash Rex Ryan-led Jets were the most hated team in the NFL, sneaking into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. After beating the Bengals in the Wild Card round, the NFL expected the 13-3 Philip Rivers & Co. to close Rex’s mouth.

The game was a defensive slugfest for much of the time, as San Diego led 7-3 until early in the fourth quarter. After a Philip Rivers interception to Jim Leonhard, Mark Sanchez cashed in with a two-yard touchdown toss to Dustin Keller. The Chargers punted on their next possession, giving the Jets the ball at their own 34.

Four plays later, on first and 10 from the Jets 47, this happened.

Incidentally, that was six-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro Eric Weddle whom Greene bowled over. All Antonio Cromartie could do was give Greene an extra shove in the end zone.

But wait. We skipped the most important player: Kaeding. The Chargers kicker missed not one, not two, but THREE field goals in the game. The first was a 36-yarder on San Diego’s second possession, keeping the game scoreless. It ended his streak of 69 consecutive field goals made inside 40 yards. The next was a 57-yarder to end the first half, which is excusable.

The third miss, poetically, was from 40 yards — exactly the same distance that he missed from five years earlier. It kept the Jets’ lead at 17-7. The Chargers later scored a touchdown to make it 17-14, and the Jets faced a fourth-and-one from San Diego’s 29 with 1:09 remaining. Of course, Ryan went for it, and Thomas Jones rewarded him with a game-clinching first down.

Once again, a Kaeding Jets victory led to heartbreak the following week, this time against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. But that was one of the best moments of the Rex era.

Here are the full highlights.

Dicker the Kicker

Kaeding had a 91.4% field goal percentage in 2009. The Chargers’ current kicker, Cameron Dicker, is at 92.1% in his second NFL season.

The Jets have gotten some good field goal luck this season, including Graham Gano’s miss from 37 yards that enabled their shocking comeback vs. the Giants.

Can they get it again with the ghost of Nate Kaeding overhead?

Time will tell.

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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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