EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Bill Parcells wanted the defending AFC East champions to start from scratch this season. Now he's got his wish.
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde ruptured his Achilles' tendon eight minutes into the New England Patriots' 30-28 comeback victory over the Jets on Sunday. He will miss the rest of the season.
And, just like that, the Jets no longer look like Super Bowl contenders and will have to drastically reshape their offense after only one game.
"What? I'm going to put up the white flag? No, I'm not going to do that," said Parcells, who also lost running back Leon Johnson for the year with torn ligaments in his left knee. "You know what? Nobody cares. ... We just have to try and adjust and go forward."
Chris Slade intercepted a pass from Jets backup Rick Mirer to set up Adam Vinatieri's 23-yard, game-winning field goal with three seconds left. Drew Bledsoe completed 21 of 30 passes for 340 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown pass to Tony Simmons.
The Patriots got their first win in four attempts against their former coach, who left on bad terms after leading them to the 1997 Super Bowl. Two seasons later, Parcells had the Jets in and AFC title game; even more was expected of them this year.
But Parcells said in training camp that he wanted the Jets' motto to be "Starting Over," because he feared his team would be complacent after last season's success.
There's no danger of that happening now.
Testaverde fell to the turf untouched after making a quick cut to the ball when Curtis Martin fumbled in the second quarter. The 35-year-old quarterback immediately grabbed his left leg and writhed in pain.
He limped off the field, using one leg and two teammates for support before he stopped and had to be carried off. The Jets announced he would have surgery Sunday night and will miss the rest of the season -- a sudden, stunning blow to a team considered poised for a championship run.
"I feel terrible for Vinny," Bledsoe said. "Vinny's a guy that's been through a ton of hard times and been on some terrible football teams. Finally, last year, he gets a chance to play on a good team and does extremely well.
"This year it looks like he's going to be very strong again and all of a sudden he's out for the season. It's really disheartening on a personal level to see that happen."
Although punter/quarterback Tom Tupa filled in admirably -- throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Keyshawn Johnson to make it to 14-10 on his first play -- the game was largely an afterthought.
"When we lost Vinny, it took a lot of air out of us. We just couldn't kill them. We couldn't put them away," Johnson said in a post-game news conference that ended when he pounded the rostrum with both fists and stomped out, his face screwed up in frustration.
Tupa completed 6 of 10 passes for 165 yards and two TDs in all, and also pinned New England on its own 1 with a punt. Because Mirer had been designated as the emergency quarterback, he couldn't play until the start of the fourth quarter or the Jets would have lost Tupa for the game.
Terry Glenn caught seven passes for 113 yards and was one of nine Patriots with a reception. Johnson caught eight passes for 194 yards, and Curtis Martin ran 19 times for 85 yards for the Jets.
New York led 16-10 at the half before Tupa fumbled and Willie McGinest fell on it in the end zone to give New England a 17-16 lead. Terry Allen broke a 22-yard touchdown to give New England a 24-16 lead, and Vinatieri added a 21-yard field goal to make it 27-16 with 6:06 left in the third.
Tupa hit Johnson for a 65-yard gain to bring the ball to the Patriots 5, then hit Fred Baxter three plays later for a 7-yard touchdown with 3:53 left in the third. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and left the score 27-22 until Bryan Cox intercepted Bledsoe and returned it 27 yards for a TD; again the Jets failed on an attempt for 2.
Those two missed extra points turned out to be crucial, along with the field goal Parcells passed up when he went for a fake field goal on fourth and 5 from the Patriots 15 with 12:50 left in the game. Tupa, in his role as holder, ran and was tackled after about 4 yards.
When it was measured to be short of the first down, Parcells challenged the call under the new instant replay rule. It was upheld, costing the Jets a timeout.
New York went virtually the entire 1998 season without a serious injury while coming within one victory of the Super Bowl, losing in the AFC championship to the Denver Broncos. That luck didn't even last until the '99 opener: They lost cornerback Otis Smith and wide receiver Wayne Chrebet in the preseason.
But none of those players was as important as Testaverde, who had a career year in 1998 while throwing for 3,256 yards and 29 touchdowns. For '99, his numbers will be: 10-for-15 for 96 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Notes: Tupa's last touchdown pass was on Sept. 13, 1992, vs. Houston, when he was playing for the Colts. His last pass attempt was Nov. 17, 1996. ... Before the game, former Gov. Thomas Kean presided over a ceremony to dedicate the Jets' season to Leon Hess, the team owner who died May 7 at 85. ... It was the first time the Jets have opened at home since 1993. ... Richie Anderson's first-quarter touchdown was his first since Sept. 28, 1997. ... Jason Wiltz, who replaced Ferguson, had his first career sack. ... Other New York injuries included tight end Eric Green (neck) and defensive tackle Jason Ferguson (knee and ankle). ... Keyshawn Johnson's 65-yard catch was the longest of his career.
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