Before this last weekend, the last time current New York Jets receiver Plaxico Burress caught a touchdown pass in a regular-season NFL game was on Nov. 9, 2008. Burress caught one pass for 17 yards and a score for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles. He would play one more game for the Giants, one week later against the Baltimore Ravens, and then, all hell would break loose in his life. We all know the story of the illegal firearm going off in his sweatpants, and the two-year prison term he served as a result. The events in Burress' life made that last touchdown seem as if it happened on the moon, or in a different century.
On Sunday, in the Jets' 27-7 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals, Burress brought the story back into the current dimension with an outstanding touchdown catch. There was 51 seconds left in the first half, the Jets had the ball at the Cincinnati 26-yard line, and Mark Sanchez threw up a great rainbow of a throw in his direction. From there, it was just up to Burress to beat his man.
That wasn't a problem.
The touchdown came less than 30 game minutes after Burress' 20-yard catch on the Jets' first offensive play of the game. Clearly, the idea was to get Burress involved early and often. "He was ready to play," Sanchez said. "He's been waiting for this for a long time, so I didn't have to say anything or do anything, really, except get him a ball that he could catch and he was rolling after the first play."
Burress finished with three catches for 66 yards, while Sanchez completed 12-of-20 passes for 173 yards and two scores.
Receiver Santonio Holmes caught the other touchdown pass, which brings up an interesting (and possibly crucial in a postseason rush) point: The Jets now have two receivers who have made Super Bowl-winning catches in successive years, each with less than a minute left in the game. Burress put the Giants ahead of the New England Patriots for good in Super Bowl XLII, and Holmes made an incredible vertical catch to get the Pittsburgh Steelers ahead of the very game Arizona Cardinals the very next year.
Now, the Jets' hope is that the two men will be competing to make that final Super Bowl catch for a team that's made the AFC championship in each of the last two seasons. Burress seems to believe that this is just the beginning of his comeback — he's hypothesized that the unintentional vacation away from football may have kept him in line for less wear and tear, and possibly playing a bit longer.
"I felt great physically," Burress said after the game. "The ankle's not an issue. I'm just kinda getting that spring back in my step. With the time off, I think that helped me physically more than anything, and I'm really not concerned about me being 34 and what everybody's saying. I just laugh on the outside. I'm just going to go out and play my game, and have fun with it, and continue to work hard and get better."
It's just a start, but considering where Burress is coming from, it's a very impressive step forward.