There are dumb plays and miserable moments, and then there is New York Jets linebacker Eric Barton's personal foul with just seconds to play in the fourth quarter on Saturday night in a dramatic and unforgettable AFC wild-card game at Qualcomm Stadium.
Dumber than dumb.
The worst of the worst.
And it almost cost the Jets a victory, but they overcame Barton's mistake to beat the San Diego Chargers in overtime, 20-17.
Barton, who would have been headed into witness relocation had the Jets lost, clubbed San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees in the head with his right arm as Brees' fourth-and-goal pass fell incomplete in the end zone with just 16 seconds to play to supposedly preserve the Jets' seven-point lead.
The game was over.
The Jets had won.
But nobody could miss Barton's hit. And suddenly the Chargers had first and goal on the 1-yard-line. On the next play, Brees threw a touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates to set up the extra point, which tied the game and sent it into overtime.
"It was a stupid play," a relieved Barton said.
In OT, both teams had to punt before the Chargers had a nice drive and rookie kicker Nate Kaeding set himself up for a 40-yard field goal to win it.
The Jets then drove down the field to set up kicker Doug Brien's 28-yard field goal.
He made it.
"This game was about faith tonight," said Jets wide receiver Santana Moss. "We knew we weren't going home."
But Barton's forearm shiver to Brees' head won't be forgotten.
It was bad for many reasons, but especially bad considering the significance of the game and the situation. The Chargers had had first and goal at the 9, and the Jets' defense had stopped them three times. It was third and goal from the 1 when the Jets stopped Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson for a 1-yard loss.
Brees' next pass wasn't close to anybody, either, as the Jets put an incredible amount of pressure on him and had Brees heading toward the other end zone when he threw a desperation pass. The Jets were doing just fine until then.
Jets quarterback Chad Pennington broke a tie with 10 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter when he threw a beautiful 47-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss to hand the Jets a 14-7 lead.
It was Pennington's longest touchdown pass of the season. They took a 17-7 lead with 1:23 left in the third quarter when Brien made a 42-yard field goal that went off the right upright and over the crossbar.
He took it. Just like he took the kick he made in overtime.
Kaeding's 35-yard field with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter made it 17-10.
_ TIMES WIRES