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BILLS WERE EASY PREY ON 'HAIL MARY' TD

Vinny Testaverde had one minor criticism of Marcus Coleman as an offensive player.

"Marcus came running on the field a little late," Testaverde said.

Yeah, but his timing was perfect after that.

The 6-foot-2 cornerback sailed down the field on the final play of the first half, and outleaped three Buffalo defenders in the end zone to catch Testaverde's perfect pass. The 45-yard touchdown broke a 14-14 tie and propelled the Jets to a 27-14 win Sunday.

It was the first successful "Hail Mary" pass for the Jets since Nov. 19, 1995, also against Buffalo. That day, Boomer Esiason connected with Adrian Murrell on a 41-yard touchdown pass.

The play not only gave the Jets the lead, but quelled the momentum Buffalo had gained just 1:07 earlier from Rob Johnson's 74-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy McDaniel.

But to Testaverde, it was less a prayer than simply a well-executed play.

"I had good protection," he said. "They pushed people aside so I could step up in the pocket. (Coleman) was the one guy I looked for. He just outjumped everybody else."

It was the first such touchdown pass of Testaverde's 14-year career.

"We work on it every Friday," Coleman said. "I knew there was a possibility it might be called."

Coleman encountered virtually no coverage as he sped down the field from the right slot. "I had a good chance to run down the field," he said. "I was surprised there was nobody in front of me."

In fact, the most difficult part of the play for Coleman was getting out there in the first place. He was the last player to report. "I didn't know I was late," he said. "I didn't hear anybody calling my name until I heard Mo (Lewis) telling me to get out there."

"He'd make a great receiver if the coach allowed him to play both ways," Testaverde said, noting that he requested Coleman for this type of situation. "Way back in training camp, we practiced that play. We were throwing to Wayne (Chrebet) and Dedric (Ward) and everybody was outjumping them so I asked coach (Al Groh) if we could use Marcus. I have worked with him ever since."

Coleman noted the lax coverage on the play. "The whole secondary on our team would have played it differently," he said. "I was surprised there was nobody in front of me."

Coleman was surprised. Buffalo coach Wade Phillips was shocked.

"That turned the game around completely," Phillips said. "We should have everybody back on the goal line. They should be waiting for the ball instead of jumping for the ball. We need a guy running with (Coleman) downfield and jamming him. We just relaxed and it cost us."

"I really can't explain it," said Bills safety Ken Irvin, one of three defenders surrounding Coleman. "It's something you don't expect to happen against you as a team. The guy just went up and made a good grab.

"I was lined up on the other side. I didn't even realize he was in the game until he caught the ball. Obviously we weren't in position to make the play."

A play that was the centerpiece of a frustrating day for the Bills. "Every replay I tried didn't work either," said Phillips, who lost two timeouts on replay challenges that were upheld.

And they lost seven points when nobody challenged Coleman.

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