The last time New York’s National Football League teams met in a regular-season game was in 2007, when receiver Plaxico Burress wore Giants’ blue instead of Jets’ green and hauled in Eli Manning’s decisive fourth-quarter touchdown pass.
Burress, 34, joined the Jets during the offseason after being released from prison, where he served 20 months on a weapons charge for accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub.
Burress played with the Giants from 2005 to 2008 and caught the winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl during his final season. Facing his former team on Christmas Eve may give Burress extra incentive in a rivalry game that already has high stakes, with area bragging rights and NFL playoff berths on the line.
“Emotionally, I know he’s thrilled about this game,” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez told reporters yesterday. “It means a lot to him because he played there for so long. He’s playing in New York still, but for a different team.”
Burress has eight touchdown catches this season, tied for the team lead with Santonio Holmes. The duo this weekend will face a Giants secondary that ranks 29th out of 32 NFL teams this season, surrendering 257.5 yards passing a game.
Burress’s production has dropped recently. His lone reception over the past two games was a nine-yard touchdown catch during the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, when the Jets were behind 45-13.
While Burress wasn’t available to reporters yesterday, Jets coach Rex Ryan said he’s expecting bigger things from Burress this week. Ryan went back to his college days at Southwestern Oklahoma State to illustrate how a player can find motivation from facing his former team.
Ryan’s Learned Lesson
“My old football coach, we had a running back that transferred from Panhandle State, which is even smaller than Southwestern,” Ryan said. “He never played. The whole year, never played. We go to play Panhandle State, he starts the kid and he goes for about 150 yards. I learned then that there is something special about it and I recognize it.”
With two regular-season games left, the Jets are 8-6, the same record as the Cincinnati Bengals as they pursue the final wild-card playoff berth in the American Football Conference.
The Giants are 7-7 and one game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football Conference East division.
The team that loses this week at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, risks falling out of playoff contention. While there’s plenty of incentive for every player on the field, Sanchez said he knows there’s another level of significance for Burress this week.
“He’s done a heck of a job for us this year,” Sanchez said. “If it’s him with 10 catches, great. If it’s one catch, fine. And he knows the most important thing is to get a win. So we’ll keep that as all of our focus.”
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