CLEVELAND -- Mark Gastineau described the New York Jets' collapse against the Cleveland Browns with harsh precision.
'This,' he said, 'is just a horrible way to end the season.'
The Jets, who roared to a 10-1 start during the regular season, were four minutes away from advancing to the AFC final Saturday, leading the Browns 20-10.
But instead of a four-minute joyride into the conference championship game, the Jets did what they had over the last five games of the regular season -- they helped their opponents beat them.
The Browns scored 10 points in the final 1:57 of regulation and Mark Moseley kicked a 27-yard field goal 2:02 into the second overtime to move Cleveland into the AFC title game with a 23-20 victory.
'There should have never been an overtime,' Jets' defensive end Marty Lyons said.
He was right. Freeman McNeil swept 25 yards to give the Jets a 20-10 lead with 4:14 to play. On Cleveland's ensuing possession, the Browns faced a second-and-24 at their own 18 when Bernie Kosar threw incomplete. However, defensive end Gastineau roughed Kosar, giving Cleveland a first down and new life.
That triggered the Jets' downfall. For the remainder of the game, New York performed with the same incompetence that made it the first team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after losing its last five games.
'It's tough to talk right now,' Gastineau said. 'At this time of the season you are thinking about packing bags. I don't want to pack my bags. I don't know what to do with myself.'
The blame could be shared. After Gastineau's penalty, the Jets committed two other costly penatlies: a holding call on a punt against Marion Barber that cost the Jets 26 yards in field position and a 25-yard pass interference penalty against Carl Howard. Both came on Cleveland's tying drive.
Also, the Jets' pass defense, worst in the NFL, allowed Kosar to set league playoff records with 33 completions and 489 yards. On offense, New York managed just one first down over its last four drives.
'It's very tough,' said defensive end Barry Bennett. 'We were so close to going to watch television tomorrow to decide if we were to go to New England or Denver next week. No I'm just driving to (home state) Minnesota and I'm not ready to do that.'
Still, a few Jets took consolation from last week's 35-15 wild-card victory over Kansas City and from having the third longest game in NFL history on the opposition's field helped.
'Last week and this week we proved something,' Jet nose tackle Tom Baldwin said. 'People thought, after we lost five straight, that our start was a fluke. We're a good team. Cleveland's just a hell of a team.'