The one-line transaction this morning read:
LB Mike Vrabel announced his retirement to become linebackers coach at Ohio State.
And Jets fans might be tempted to say “good riddance.”
All in jest, of course. But green-clad fanatics were none too jovial about the present they received on the 13th day of Christmas in 2005, when Vrabel, then a versatile starting linebacker for the Patriots, turned into an offensive red zone monster against the Jets in that Dec. 26 Monday night affair.
Lining up at tight end, Vrabel caught a pair of touchdown passes from Tom Brady. His first, 9:33 into the game, put New England ahead, 7-0. His second gave the Pats a 14-7 lead they never lost in their 31-21 win over the Jets.
Not surprisingly, no other primarily defensive player has ever scored two offensive touchdowns in his entire career against the Jets. And Vrabel turned in his two in a span of 14:22 in the first half, a nice set of bookends to go with his team-high six tackles and one sack of Jets starter Brooks Bollinger that night.
The game was oddly historic in Jets and NFL history for a few other reasons. As many will remember, it was the last Monday Night Football telecast by ABC before handing that franchise over to ESPN in 2006. Talk about your bookends — ABC debuted MNF when the Jets and Joe Namath took on and lost to the Browns, also by 31-21, back on Sept. 21, 1970.
Then there was Vinny Testaverde’s contribution to the evening. Vinny famously climbed off his Long Island couch for a classic return as the Jets starter after the season-ending injuries to Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler and provided some early highlights, but soon he was showing his age, suffered a ding or two himself, and had settled back on the depth chart as Bollinger showed a little late promise.
Which caused some eyebrows to arch when coach Herm Edwards said Testaverde would see some action in the final two games of the Jets’ 4-12 campaign. “I think it’s important,” Coach Herm said at the time, “for a lot of reasons.”
One reason was for the record books. If Testaverde, who had thrown no TDs that season, found just one receiver for a score, he’d hold the mark for the most consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass in NFL history. He was tied at the time at 18 straight seasons with Fran Tarkenton (1961-78).
“Just Herm mentioning it says a lot,” Testaverde said during the week of the PT offer. “I’d love to get in there, don’t get me wrong. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m OK with that, too.”
It did happen. No. 16 came back on the field for the Green & White’s final series, and with 2:10 left, on his final play as a Jet, Testaverde hooked up with Laveranues Coles from 27 yards to set the record at 19 straight seasons. (Which he then extended to 21 seasons with one TD pass for the Patriots in ’06 and five for the Panthers in ’07.)
Back to Vrabel, who triggered this funky trip down memory lane. He played 17 games against the Jets as a Patriot from 2001-08 (just one with the Steelers in ’00 and none with the Chiefs in ’09-10). In those games, he had 81 tackles, 7.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles, and the Pats went 13-4 against the Jets. Thus we impersonate Michael Kay and say to Vrabel, “See Ya!”
But if he can coach up a ‘backer or two at The Ohio State University that can help the Jets out in the coming years, well, all will be forgiven. Good luck, Mike.
Tags: Brooks Bollinger, Laveranues Coles, Mike Vrabel, Monday Night Football, Ohio State, Tom Brady, Vinny Testaverde
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