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Added January 5th, 2016 by Ian
NFL

New York Jets throw away playoff spot in season finale

The task for the New York Jets was simple on Sunday, January 3rd. All they had to do to make the NFL playoffs was to beat the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. If successful they’d be in the postseason for the first time in five years. However, they failed miserably as the Jets were downed 22-17 by the Bills. It also didn’t help matters that New York quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted three times in the fourth quarter.

Fitzpatrick was trying to make the playoffs for the first time in his 10-year NFL career and had been playing well over the past five weeks with just one interception and 13 touchdown passes. Fitzpatrick had gone 5-0 over that stretch and put his team in excellent position to make the playoffs with a win over Buffalo on the final day of the campaign. Things fell apart for the veteran when the game was on the line in the final quarter though and the Jets weren’t able to recover.

The Jets still would have made the playoffs if the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t overcome the lowly Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, but the Steelers didn’t waste their chance as they downed the Browns by a score of 28-12. The win gave Pittsburgh the second and last wildcard playoff spot in the AFC. The Steelers’ chances of making the postseason were 50-50 since a win wouldn’t have been good enough if the Jets were victorious. The Steelers had put themselves in the precarious position by losing in Baltimore to the Ravens a week earlier.

Fitzpatrick’s first interception came when the Jets were on Buffalo’s 14-yard line and he threw the ball to Erick Decker in the end zone on the second down, but the pass was intercepted by the Bills’ Leodis McKelvin. The Bills were ahead 19-17 at the time and then used up seven minutes on the clock as they launched a 13-play drive which led to a field goal and a 22-17 lead. This meant the Jets had to score a touchdown to win and make the playoffs with about four minutes to go.

Fitzpatrick was picked off for the second time when he threw third-and-long to Brandon Marshall, but Manny Lawson was there to intercept it. The Bills were unable to earn a first down and the Jets got the ball back with under a minute to go with no timeouts remaining. It looked like Fitzpatrick and his teammates would be headed to the postseason when the quarterback threw a deep pass on the sideline to Kenbrell Thompkins, who appeared to be open.

Their chances were dashed though when Buffalo’s Mario Butler hit Thompkins and knocked the ball out of his hands. Fitzpatrick made one final pass attempt to Decker with just a few seconds remaining on the clock, but it was short and the Bills’ A.J. Tarpley picked it off. Fitzpatrick definitely had an off-day, but as receiver Brandon Marshall told the press, the Jets wouldn’t have had a shot at a playoff spot if it wasn’t for the play of the quarterback in the previous five contests. Either way, the Steelers had the Bills to thank for this year’s playoff berth.

 
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