Monday, March 13, 2017

A Memorable Jets Win From the 1981 Regular Season

The first NFL season that I really remember was the 1981 season, which was actually quite an extraordinary one, especially for those, like me, living in the greater New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Both New York football franchises qualified for the postseason for the first time in well over a decade. For the Jets, it was the first time since the 1969 season, when they were the defending Super Bowl champions. For the Giants, this 1981 season ended an 18-year playoff drought, when the Giants seemed to be one of those cursed franchises.

It also ended playoff droughts for other teams, too, including the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, the two teams that would wind up meeting in the Super Bowl that season. The Buffalo Bills had made the postseason the season before as AFC East champs, and they returned in 1981, although they also had not enjoyed much success in the seasons prior to those two years, and they would not enjoy success again for quite some years. And Tampa Bay, still only in their sixth season, won their second division title in three seasons, although they got quickly bounced in their first and only postseason game, getting blown out by the Dallas Cowboys, 38-0. 

Despite this rise of relative newbies into relatively elite status in 1981, there were traditional powerhouses that enjoyed success. The Dallas Cowboys finished with a 12-4 record, and made the NFC Championship Game for the ninth time in 12 seasons. They would also make it back in the 1982 season, although this may have been the Doomsday Defense's last real chance at a Super Bowl. And the Miami Dolphins finished with a 11-4-1 mark, and like Dallas, earned the second seed in the AFC playoffs.

Both of those teams lost, however, in very memorable games. The Dolphins lost in the divisional round in an instant classic to the San Diego Chargers in a high-scoring game that lasted all the way to double overtime. And the Cowboys went to the NFC title game, almost advancing to the Super Bowl, before Joe Montana connected with Dwight Clark in what turned out to be one of the most famous plays in NFL history, since known simply as "The Catch." Dallas failed to mount a comeback, and the 49ers instead advanced to the Super Bowl instead.

The entire season seems, in retrospect, to have been a shift of power in the NFL. Teams that had once been powerful and dominant in the 1970's gave way to teams that would enjoy more success in the 1980's. The 49ers rose right to the top of the league, while the Giants found their way to the postseason, even knocking off the defending NFC champion Eagles in the process. The Jets were not the best team of the 1980's, but they were decent for the first half and change of the decade, and this season was indicative of that, as well.

The two really great playoff clashes that most people remember - the Chargers - Dolphins game and the 49ers-Cowboys game - live on in popular imagination. However, there were some other great games and memories from this season, as well, perhaps especially if you were and/or are a fan of either the Giants or the Jets.

Probably the most memorable regular season game that the Giants had from the regular season came in the finale, when New York finally bested their longtime tormentors, the Dallas Cowboys, 13-10, with a last second field goal. I remember that game well, although finding it anywhere in Youtube proved surprisingly difficult.

For the Jets, the most memorable game that I recall from that season came against the Dolphins. The Jets won an impressive, come from behind victory at the old Shea Stadium, moving them into a first place tie with Miami. Not only was this video available from Youtube, but actually, I just accidentally stumbled upon it, and thought it would be worth sharing. At first, it seemed like this game was in Miami, until I remembered that, at the time, the Jets still played at Shea, with real grass.

This was indeed an incredible game, with an intense finish, and probably was largely responsible for the Jets managing to qualify for the postseason on this season.

Here is the video:

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