It was one small 13 1/2 -foot sneak that took place in Game 13 of last season, some 13 months ago. It was lucky for some, unlucky for others.
It provided the Jets with a momentum-building victory on their way to the AFC title game.
It helped the Seattle Seahawks ultimately extend their drought without a playoff appearance to 10 seasons. It helped usher back an old NFL rule. "The league had to do something, and now we have instant replay," Jets center Kevin Mawae said, "which doesn't work, either."
"It" was Vinny Testaverde's do-or-die keeper on fourth-and-goal at the 5 with 27 seconds to play Dec. 6, 1998. Testaverde was a half-yard shy of breaking the goal-line plane with the ball when his knee touched the Giants Stadium turf. But head linesman Earnie Frantz thought Testaverde made it in and so did all the Jets. "I remember signaling touchdown," tackle Jumbo Elliott said with a smile.
The phantom TD, which secured the Jets' 32-31 win over Seattle, will be replayed again this week, on TV and in fans' minds, because the Seahawks return to Giants Stadium for their regular-season finale against the Jets. And it is natural to wonder if, after watching the playback, they're thinking payback.
"I saw Jon Kitna in February," Mawae said of the Seattle quarterback. "He told me I owed him some playoff money. Jokingly."
But Jets coach Bill Parcells saw the play as a non-factor in this year's preparation, precisely because postseason money is on the line again this time, not for the Jets but for the Seahawks, who make the playoffs if they win or if Kansas City loses at home to Oakland.
"Why would you talk about last year when they've got a whole different deal on the line?" Parcells asked. "They've got their division, the playoffs, they might get a home-field game. Why would you be talking about something irrelevant like that? I wouldn't."
Neither will Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who was the Green Bay coach then. But neither did Holmgren install V-chips in the team's video monitors before watching tapes of that game and that play this week.
"I was involved in instant replay on the (NFL) competition committee, and that was one of the plays that I think changed some people's minds," he said in a telephone hookup. "They'll see it on film and they'll be reminded of it without me having to say anything. It'd be foolish to ignore it or say it didn't happen.
"But they know what they have to do, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what happened in that game last year."
"The Jets didn't blow the call. The referees blew the call," Seattle linebacker Chad Brown said. "We're not out there to seek revenge. We're out there to try to get ourselves into the playoffs. It's a completely different focus."
But nose tackle Jason Ferguson warned the Seahawks, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a big win over Kansas City last weekend, not to focus past the Jets, who have won six of their last eight.
"I'm sure they're probably mad about what happened last year," Ferguson said. "But they know it's not going to be an easy game just because they're mad."
Around the league
Quarterback Ryan Leaf, bothered by pain in his surgically repaired right shoulder, was placed on injured reserve by the San Diego Chargers. He didn't take a snap this season.
Kordell Stewart has bronchitis and can barely speak, making it doubtful he will play quarterback Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Stewart was benched last month, but coach Bill Cowher suggested he might take some snaps against Tennessee.
Receiver Patrick Jeffers signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Carolina Panthers through the 2003 season. The four-year deal is worth $10 million and includes a $3 million bonus. He has caught 56 passes for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Rae Carruth's assets were frozen Thursday after it was determined the former Panthers player is the father of his slain girlfriend's child. Judge Yvonne Mims Evans released the results of DNA tests that showed there was a 99.9 percent probability Carruth is the father of Chancellor Lee Adams. Evans said Carruth's assets would be frozen with the exception of $35,000 he can use to help pay for his lawyers. Carruth and three other men are being held without bail on first-degree murder and related charges in the slaying of Cherica Adams.