As the New York Jets get ready to open their season on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, let us make a trip to the time capsule. The year was 1997, and it was week four of the NFL season. The Jets were a league-worst 1-15 the previous season and had not won a home game in nearly two calendar years.
Going into the game, the Jets were 1-2 under new head coach Bill Parcells and hoping to snap a two-game losing streak. Coming to town were the Raiders, who were also 1-2. Throughout the course of both franchise's histories, the Jets and Raiders have played plenty of memorable games against each other. While this particular game was not as prolific as the Heidi Game, the 1968 AFL Championship, or the Divisional Round matchup in 1983, or the win that lifted the Jets into the playoffs at the end of the 2001 season, it could be remembered for the bizarre way it unfolded.
Led by quarterback Jeff George, the Raiders struck first on a 56-yard touchdown pass to James Jett. Kicker Cole Ford missed the extra point, which would oddly foreshadow the game's outcome. After the Jets got on the scoreboard with a John Hall field goal, George connected with Tim Brown on a 29-yard touchdown pass. Oakland decided to go for two but failed. Later in the quarter and down by nine, Jets halfback Adrian Murrell ran into the end zone for a four-yard score and made the game close again with New York trailing 12-10. Before halftime, the Raiders would add two more scores to build a 22-10 lead.
Although it looked like the Raiders would be able to run away with a win, the Jets were able to pull of a comeback with a little bit of luck. After the Jets tacked on two more John Hall field goals, Cole Ford, who had already missed three field goals, had his kick blocked by Corwin Brown. Ray Mickens then scooped it up and dashed 72 yards for a touchdown. The extra point after that would give the Jets their first lead of the game and a 23-22 victory. That win was New York's first home victory since week eight of the 1995 season. Since this game, the Jets have not lost to the Raiders at home.
The 1997 season would eventually turn out to be probably the second-best season of the 1990s for the Jets. They would finish 9-7 and narrowly miss the playoffs. This game would help send the message that the Jets were no longer an assumed win on the schedule. In a way, this Sunday has a little resemblance as the Jets are a team on the rise and the Raiders appear weak. Now, it's time to see if history will repeat itself.
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