ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Randy Bullock hit a 40-yard field goal with 36 seconds remaining and the New York Jets secured an important victory for their AFC playoff aspirations, beating the struggling Dallas Cowboys 19-16 on Saturday night.
The Jets (9-5) have won four consecutive games — their first four-game winning streak since 2010 — and are currently sitting in AFC playoff position but do not control their own destiny. If the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) win out, they will overtake New York for a wild-card spot.
The Cowboys (4-10) — who went to third-string quarterback Kellen Moore to replace fill-in starter Matt Cassel — were officially eliminated from playoff contention in the NFC. It was Dallas' sixth loss of the season by seven points or fewer.
Kenbrell Thompkins caught a 43-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick, beating Dallas cornerback Byron Jones, to set up the final field goal. That came one play after Fitzpatrick was ruled to be down by contact when he lost the ball on a carry, a ball that was recovered by Dallas.
Following Thompkins' reception, the Jets ran three times while Dallas burned all three of its timeouts. Bullock, who earlier missed a field goal and an extra point, then came on for the go-ahead kick.
The Cowboys had one final chance, but on their second play, Moore's deep throw was intercepted by Jets defensive back Marcus Williams, the former Hopkins High School athlete's sixth interception of the season. It was the fourth interception of the game for the Jets, the third thrown by Moore.
Moore did move the Dallas offense some, though, completing 15 of 25 passes for 158 yards and throwing a touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. Darren McFadden rushed for 100 yards for Dallas.
Fitzpatrick threw for 299 yards with a touchdown pass to Eric Decker and an interception. Decker, the former Gophers standout, caught a touchdown pass for the 10th time in 13 games this season.
Fitzpatrick has the Jets in position to make the playoffs even though they didn't expect him to be their starting quarterback this season.
The Cowboys have had no such luck with their backups to Tony Romo, and the defending NFC East champions are out of the playoff hunt as a result.
It might be hard for the Jets to remember that Fitzpatrick wasn't their guy when they went to training camp — before Geno Smith's jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali at camp.
Now, Fitzpatrick is trying to earn his first trip to the playoffs in the Ivy Leaguer's 11th NFL season.
"I think as a fan of football and someone who's been around football my whole life, I have an affinity for him," said Dallas coach Jason Garrett, who was a quarterback at Princeton about 15 years before Fitzpatrick was at Harvard. "He's a smart guy. He's a tough guy. He plays the game the right way."
Cassel once won 10 games filling in for Tom Brady in New England. But he fell to 1-6 as the second replacement for Romo this season, after Brandon Weeden went 0-3. The Cowboys have scored more than one touchdown just twice in his seven starts.
"They still have a great offensive line; they've got a slew of running backs," said New York coach Todd Bowles, who missed Romo last year as well when he was defensive coordinator in a win for Arizona. "We expect to get the Cowboys that won a division, the Cowboys that play hard and do everything they've been doing. We expect a tough game."