Chansi Stuckey needed a year to show that his good hands and airborne body control from the ’07 training camp weren’t mirages. But he showed that Sunday against the Dolphins with his 22-yard touchdown catch on Brett Favre’s fourth-down heave with 6:52 left in the first half, giving the Jets a lead they never lost.
That play also happened to be Stuckey’s first pro TD catch and first pro catch of any kind. He’s listed as a second-year pro because he made it to the regular season last year, but he didn’t play in the opener vs. the Patriots and went on IR shortly after that game.
"It’s great," Stuckey said of his emotions at finally getting into and contributing mightily in his first NFL game. "The ball was up there, but I knew it was my ball. I made up my mind that I needed to come down with it. I was going to get hit after the catch, but I was able to come down with it and sustain the hit."
It didn’t hurt that Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell took several steps forward, as if to try to help finish off Favre, who was hit twice in the pocket, the second time as he launched his answered prayer of a pass. But Stuckey, who climbed air stairs to make a few catches at last year’s camp, still probably would’ve come down with it a foot inside the goal line to give the Jets a 13-7 lead.
After the game, Stuckey said, "I’ve got to find who has the ball." The souvenir’s safety was never in doubt as equipment director Gus Granneman’s crew snapped up the pigskin, even despite some confusion due to the two-point play that quickly followed, and put it away for safe keeping. And soon the equipment team will ship Stuckey’s ball out with several other "first" balls for other Jets, to be painted and made suitable for trophy case or mantel.
Stuckey said he may ask to have a little extra design work added to his ball. "I might get Brett to sign it," he said.
For historical buffs, since 1992 the 22-yard Favre-to-Stuckey pass was only the sixth fourth-down conversion of 11 yards or longer and the second-longest fourth-down TD connection. The previous long in that span: the 29-yard fourth-and-goal strike from Neil O’Donnell to then-rookie Keyshawn Johnson in the third game of the 1996 season.
Here are few more Miami morsels to savor before we head into Wednesday’s big media smorgasbord in advance of the home opener against the Patriots:
Red Zone Rebound?
The Jets’ 36.7 percent red zone touchdown rate last season was 31st in the NFL. One game does not a turnaround make, but their two shorter touchdown drives at Dolphin Stadium on Sunday were both RZ opportunities, giving them a 66.7 rate after one game.
Major Plus in Miami
The Jets and Dolphins each had one takeaway for a zero turnover differential Sunday. But that doesn’t hurt the Green & White’s takeaway talents in this series since they got the upper hand in 1998. In the 21 games since that season, the Jets are plus-25 in TO differential over Miami (24 giveaways, 49 takeaways).
Dolphins’ Tough Sledding
The Dolphins’ 11 second-half rushing yards (on four carries, all in the third quarter) were tied for the third-fewest rushing yards by a Jets opponent in any half in the last 10 seasons. The only better halves came within a six-game span in 2006 — 1 yard by the Houston Texans in Week 12, 7 yards by the Oakland Raiders in Week 17.
Bryan Thomas had a strong game vs. the Dolphins that may have been just a little stronger than first thought. The Miami pressbox crew credited DE Kenyon Coleman with a tackle and a forced fumble on the reception that Ricky Williams lost the handle near the two-minute warning in the first half.
Trouble was, Coleman wasn’t on the field on that play. BT and Eric Smith were, and one of those two should have received credit for stripping or punching the ball loose and out of bounds on the play. And if BT got the force (which remains an unofficial stat but still one you can find on some NFL Websites), it came the player after he threw Chad Pennington down for the first of his two sacks.
You may remember Ricky Williams galloping for 18 yards on a third-and-16 play at the Meadowlands in the Dolphins’ 21-10 win in 2003. That remains a significant milestone in the Jets-Miami series because it was the last time the Dolphins converted a third-and-more-than-10-yards situation. Including Sunday’s 0-for-5, the ‘Fins have gone 0-for-their-last-28 when looking at third-and-double-digits vs. the Jets.
When Favre couldn’t find a receiver, he tucked the ball and ran for a first down on his first third-down play as the Jets’ QB, prompting the CBS announcers to offer a nice exchange about the 38-year-old Favre making plays with his feet rather than his right arm:
Jim Nantz: Brett Favre … he still has it.
Phil Simms: Well, he still has it but he doesn’t want to use it.
And LB Calvin Pace was feeling the heat of the game even after he and his teammates were safely back in their Dolphin Stadium locker room. "Oh, man, the humidity in the fourth quarter got to me," Pace said with a smile. "I ain’t gonna lie. I’m glad we didn’t go to overtime."
Tags: Brett Favre, Bryan Thomas, Chansi Stuckey, Gus Granneman, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Ricky Williams
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