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Morton Puts On the Afterburner

September 09, 2002|From Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Chad Morton didn't want to look back to see if anyone was chasing him. Now the New York Jets can look forward to next week after squeaking out a dramatic victory to open their season.

Morton ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 96-yarder to start overtime to lift the Jets to a 37-31 victory over Buffalo on Sunday and spoiling Drew Bledsoe's debut with the Bills.

He became only the second player in NFL history to return an overtime kickoff for a touchdown. On Nov. 27, 1980, Chicago's Dave Williams took the opening overtime kickoff for a score in a win over Detroit.

"I knew it was going to be a foot race. I didn't know if I had enough gas to make it to the end zone," Morton said. "I was thinking to myself, 'Please, don't get caught.... But I made it into the end zone. Game over."

Morton caught Mike Hollis' kickoff along the right sideline and cut toward the middle of the field. He broke a tackle at the 30, then outran Shawn Bryson into the end zone.

He is the first player in NFL history to return a kickoff for a score in regulation and overtime. He also became the first Jet and fifth player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for scores. New Orleans' Tyrone Hughes was the last player to run back two kickoffs for scores, accomplishing the feat in 1994.

After running back a 98-yarder--the third-longest in franchise history--in the second quarter, Morton had enough in him for one more big return. It came after Bledsoe forced overtime by connecting with Eric Moulds on a 29-yard touchdown pass play with 26 seconds remaining.

The Jets won even though Curtis Martin left the game at halftime because of a sprained left ankle, and Vinny Testaverde played inconsistently.

Testaverde completed 24 of 30 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Becht, with a one-yard reception, and Wayne Chrebet, with an 18-yarder, also scored for the Jets.

Bledsoe, acquired in a deal with New England last April to spark the Bill offense, was 26 for 39 for 271 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Buffalo's Travis Henry rushed for a career-high 149 yards and three touchdowns.

The close finish should not come as a surprise. The two teams' previous three meetings were decided by six points or less.

Special teams continue to haunt the Bills, going back to the Music City Miracle in the 1999 AFC playoff loss to Tennessee. That's when the Titans' Frank Wycheck threw a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson, and he scampered 75 yards for a 22-16 victory as time ran out.

Sunday, the Bills allowed 300 yards in returns. They also allowed a blocked punt.

"It was the worst day I've ever experienced and ultimately it's our responsibility as a special teams group," Bills' special teams coach Danny Smith said. "I apologize to our football team. I apologize to the fans."

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