EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After personally rolling up more than 432 yards offense yesterday by air and land, a weary Vinny Testaverde needed just four extra inches against the Seattle Seahawks. With the Jets' season possibly on the line and time bleeding away, head linesman Earnie Frantz III was happy to provide them.
The official's questionable touchdown call on Testaverde's desperate, 5-yard sneak on fourth down with 20 seconds remaining bailed out the Jets in a remarkable 32-31 victory that left them tied with Miami atop the AFC East at 9-4 with three games remaining.
Testaverde, capping a day in which he established career highs with 63 passes and 42 completions, appeared to bounce to the turf inside the 1-yard line with lineman Cortez Kennedy holding his ankles.
Frantz's immediate call from the right pylon, confirmed after a brief huddling of officials, touched off a wild celebration on the Jets' sideline and a penalty flag against cornerback Shawn Springs, who hurled his helmet in frustration out of an angry flock of Seahawks.
Television replays showed that Testaverde didn't reach the end zone.
"He clearly wasn't in," said Seattle safety Jay Bellamy, who delivered the final hit on Testaverde at the 1-yard line and came away with the football. "I was right there on the tackle. It's a bogus call."
The win, the Jets' sixth straight at home, likely positioned the club to within a victory of its first playoff spot since 1991. The closing stretch, however, includes three straight games against AFC East contenders, beginning Sunday night against the host Dolphins.
"God's playing in some of these games, and he was on our side today," Jets coach Bill Parcells said. "He's telling [Seattle coach Dennis] Erickson he's going to have to wait awhile. He's telling Parcells, 'Here's a rabbit's foot, Parcells.' That's what He's telling us."
The Jets won on their final gasp despite dominating in first downs (31-13), total offense (488-377), yards passing (418-271) and time of possession, holding the ball more than 15 minutes longer than Seattle (6-7).
That effort was sabotaged by three turnovers converted into 21 points by the Seahawks, along with the Jets' failure to score touchdowns on two drives inside the Seattle 5 in the first half.
Testaverde set a Jets record for passing attempts and matched another for completions, finishing with 418 yards and two touchdown throws. A third-quarter interception, however, was returned 36 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Anthony Simmons, giving the Seahawks a 28-13 lead, their largest of the game.
Receiver Keyshawn Johnson was the primary beneficiary of Testaverde's busy day, catching nine passes for 114 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown reception 2: 38 into the final quarter to pull the Jets to within 31-26.
The winning scoring run, on a play lobbied for by Testaverde, capped the biggest fourth-quarter comeback for the Jets in 15 seasons. The team, trailing 31-19 after three quarters, scored twice in the final 12: 22 for its seventh victory in the past eight games.
Pub Date: 12/07/98