The duel of resurrected Heisman heroes never came off Sunday because Vinny Testaverde had a staunch defense and a fellow No. 1 overall draft pick on his side.
Testaverde, in the midst of the best streak of his 12-year career, passed for three touchdowns in New York's 34-12 rout of the Buffalo Bills. The victory, which snapped the Bills' six-game winning streak in the series, left the Jets (6-3) tied with Miami for first place in the AFC East.
New York won its fourth consecutive game thanks to Testaverde's marksmanship, Keyshawn Johnson's receiving skills and a stingy defense that clamped down on the elusive Doug Flutie.
"All the good quarterbacks in this league -- the Marinos, the Aikmans, the Steve Youngs, the Vinny Testaverdes," Johnson said, "they've got this strong arm where they can put that ball just where you want it. That's what Vinny's doing."
Testaverde, the first choice in the 1987 draft, did it for Johnson, the No. 1 pick in 1996, finding him seven times for 95 yards. On a 25-yard score, Testaverde pumped several times before Johnson, his fifth and "last option," caught a perfect spiral.
That, the '86 Heisman recipient claimed, came from experience.
"I went through the process fairly quickly," he said of looking at his first four options. "Everybody seemed covered and I came back to Keyshawn, who was waving his hands to get him the ball.
"I told him, `I don't kow how you make some of the catches you make, but keep on doing it.'"
Testaverde just keeps on winning. Unbeaten in six starts this year, he threw for 258 yards, while Flutie (1984 Heisman) passed for only 154. Flutie constantly was harassed by the Jets defense and threw two interceptions that led to 10 points.
Flutie and Testaverde, both backups to open the season, were the top-rated passers in the AFC. Testaverde went 22-for-31, while Flutie was 12-for-30.
"It's been a good five years since I had one of these," said Flutie, a six-time Most Outstanding Player honoree in the CFL before returning to the NFL this season. "They got some pressure on me. One-on-one, they kept it pretty close and they made plays when it counted."
| Ray Mickens reacts after intercepting a Doug Flutie pass in the fourth quarter. (AP) |
All of Buffalo's scoring came on field goals by Steve Christie as the Bills' five-game winning streak ended. It also was the first loss at the Meadowlands for Flutie, who was 7-0 in the USFL, 1-0 in college and 1-0 in the NFL at Giants Stadium.
"We're coming together as a defense," cornerback Aaron Glenn said. "We're showing we can take control of a game."
Testaverde threw two perfect spirals for touchdowns, connecting with Johnson for 25 yards in the first quarter and Dedric Ward for 36 in the third. Ward used a 15-yard punt return to set up his TD.
The other TD pass was a 12-yarder to Wayne Chrebet in the fourth quarter. Curtis Martin added a 6-yard scoring run.
Testaverde, intercepted only twice entering the game, saw his first pass picked off. Linebacker John Holecek tipped it to teammate Sam Cowart at the New York 38.
But the Bills (5-4) went nowhere, just as they failed to take advantage when Jerald Sowell's second-quarter fumble was returned to the Jets 37 by Donovan Greer.
But when Sowell dropped the ball again and Manny Martin recovered, Buffalo didn't mess up, driving to Christie's third field goal, from 44 yards.
That gave the Bills a 9-7 edge, which John Hall erased with a 49-yarder 27 seconds from halftime. He added a 43-yarder as the first half ended after Otis Smith's interception and a 25-yard completion to Ward.
Christie also had first-half field goals of 37 and 40 yards. He made a 21-yarder in the third quarter.
New York has won all four of its division games after going 2-6 in the AFC East a year ago.
"It was an old-fashioned butt-kicking," Bills star DE Bruce Smith said.
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