Let’s just get this out of the way: The fact that the Jets are in first place by one game after week eleven is nice, but doesn’t much matter. There’s still plenty of season left, and the standings are bound to change a few times over the next six weeks. That being said, both the symbolism and lessons of last night’s 34–31 win are tough to ignore.
All of the following were in doubt to various degrees, but we now know: The Jets can actually beat the Patriots when it counts (albeit a Patriots team without Tom Brady); they can win on the road against a potentially elite team (this may come in handy in the playoffs); Brett Favre can play a game without just heaving the ball downfield and hoping for the best (or maybe just do it once, early); and, most encouragingly, he can still go a whole game without throwing an interception. Also, the Jets can handle adversity: They scored late after blowing their 24–6 lead, then again in overtime after a potentially heartbreaking Randy Moss touchdown with one second left.
Speaking of Favre, he was far more the type of quarterback the Jets need him to be than when he threw six touchdowns against the Cardinals earlier this year. He was good last night — excellent even — but to borrow a phrase from the broadcast, he was, above all, clean. Not only did he not throw the ball away, he wasn’t really close to doing so. He was perfect on throws over ten yards, and led scoring drives when it mattered the most. He didn’t have to be the hero — it was a very balanced effort — even if he’ll get the lion’s share of the credit. (For an idea of how central Favre is to this team in the eyes of the media, consider that after Leon Washington scored last night — on a kickoff return — NFL Network cameras immediately cut to Favre celebrating, as if he had anything to do with it.)
Favre looked like he was on the verge of tears in his postgame interview. And while that may be a little much, maybe he was just stepping back and looking at the big picture — at the scenario everyone dreamed of when they acquired him: The Jets are still relevant after week eleven. And in the long run, that’s more important than being in first.
Earlier: Leitch: Just What’s at Stake As the Jets Meet the Patriots