Jets’ Maye laughs off jokes over INT re­turn

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - SPORTS -

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mar­cus Maye is in the NFL record books for one of the best plays of his foot­ball ca­reer — and eas­ily the most em­bar­rass­ing.

The Jets safety has been a sta­ple of the high­light (and blooper) reels this week for his 104-yard in­ter­cep­tion re­turn on the fi­nal play of New York’s 34-16 vic­tory over Den­ver last Sun­day . Maye picked off Case Keenum’s pass in the end zone and took off, mak­ing a few cuts and then chug­ging his way to the other end of the field.

But some­thing funny hap­pened on his way to a game-end­ing touch­down: He was caught and tack­led. At the 1-yard line.

It’s the long­est in­ter­cep­tion re­turn with­out a player scor­ing in NFL his­tory.

“I’ve seen it a bunch,” a smil­ing Maye said Thurs­day, “and I laugh ev­ery time I see it.”

He has taken plenty of rib­bing about it, too, from his team­mates and coaches.

“It looked like it was in slow mo­tion,” coach Todd Bowles quipped.

“Usu­ally in prac­tice, we pitch the ball to each other to go score if we get tired,” safety Ja­mal Adams said, “and Mar­cus Maye did not pitch the ball!”

Maye was play­ing in his sec­ond game of the sea­son af­ter miss­ing the bulk of train­ing camp and the preseason while deal­ing with an­kle and foot in­juries. The sec­ond-year safety had off­sea­son an­kle surgery and is still round­ing into shape. He has been limited this week at prac­tice.

So, it’s no won­der he started run­ning out of gas by the time he reached mid­field.

“I feel like once I got across the 50 and back to our side­line, all train of thought went out the win­dow,” he said. “I was so tired.”

On the play, Keenum’s pass to Court­land Sut­ton was de­flected by Mor­ris Clai­borne and fell into the hands of Maye, who turned around, scooted out of the end zone and took off down the right side­line. He avoided a div­ing Keenum and then made a cut to avoid two would-be tack­lers and headed across the field to the left side­line with a pack of team­mates block­ing for him.

Bron­cos right guard Con­nor McGovern then tried to get Maye,

who eas­ily shook the tackle at­tempt and then headed to the mid­dle of the field as he set his sights on the end zone. But Sut­ton caught up to Maye and made a div­ing stop, leav­ing the Jets safety 1 yard shy of a touch­down.

“I didn’t even see 14 (Sut­ton) back there,” Maye said. “All I saw was the O-line­man. Once I hit the ground, I was like, ‘Oh, well.’“

Maye laid face-down in the end zone as team­mate Parry Nick­er­son pat­ted him on the back.

“I’ve got to get into the end zone some way,” Maye said.

Ac­cord­ing to NFL Next Gen Stats, Maye ran a to­tal of 140.7 yards on the re­turn — the league’s third-long­est play this sea­son be­hind only Kan­sas City’s Tyreek Hill (140.9 on a 91-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down) and Detroit’s Ja­mal Agnew (142.1 on a 73-yard punt re­turn for a TD that

was nul­li­fied by a penalty and cred­ited as a 4-yard re­turn).

“Yeah, I’ve been run­ning,” Maye said when asked if he has got­ten into bet­ter shape the last few days. “I’ve been run­ning sprints in be­tween pe­ri­ods and get­ting on the bike and stuff like that.”

All kid­ding aside, it was a good all-around game for Maye, who had eight tack­les — six solo — a sack, a pass de­fensed, a forced fum­ble and the in­ter­cep­tion.

“He sees the game very well, he knows the game,” Bowles said. “He’s pretty bright for a young guy.”

Maye made his sea­son de­but two weeks ago at Jack­sonville, when he made six to­tal tack­les. The safety can see im­prove­ment from that game to his per­for­mance last week — even with that, well, slug­gish end­ing.

“I felt a lot bet­ter,” Maye said. “Each day, each week, you just try to stack the days. Jack­sonville, the first game back and first out­ing,

you see things and try to re­act to them. But for the most part, com­ing into Den­ver week, I felt bet­ter and felt like I was mov­ing around more and knew what was go­ing on, so it was a bet­ter out­ing.”

NOTES: DE Leonard Wil­liams didn’t prac­tice with what Bowles said was a sore back. It’s too early to tell if it might limit him or keep him out against In­di­anapo­lis on Sun­day. … RB Isa­iah Crow­ell sat out for the sec­ond straight day with an an­kle ail­ment. He

was in­jured dur­ing his fran­chise-record 219-yard rush­ing per­for­mance last Sun­day. … CB Tru­maine John­son (quadri­ceps), CB

Buster Skrine (con­cus­sion), WR Charone Peake (ham­string), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot) and WR Ter­relle Pryor (ex­cused ab­sence) also didn’t prac­tice. … WR-KR An­dre Roberts (el­bow/foot), C

Spencer Long (knee/fin­ger), S Doug Mid­dle­ton (ham­string) and TE Neal Ster­ling (con­cus­sion) were all limited.

Seth Wenig / As­so­ci­ated Press

Jets head coach Todd Bowles, right, smiles while talk­ing to Mar­cus Maye af­ter Sun­day’s vic­tory over the Bron­cos.

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