ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Chad Morton returned two kickoffs for touchdowns Sunday, the second of them a 96-yarder at the start of overtime, to give the New York Jets a 37-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Playing in his first game with the Bills after being acquired in the offseason from the New England Patriots, quarterback Drew Bledsoe hit Eric Moulds with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 31-31.
But Morton spoiled Bledsoe's debut when he caught the overtime kickoff at the goal line, ran to his right, cut past two defenders at his own 30, raced toward the middle, blew by kicker Mike Hollis at midfield and outraced Shawn Bryson into the end zone.
"I made a move on the kicker and saw that guy (Bryson) right on the side of me," Morton said. "I knew it was going to be a footrace. I didn't know if I had enough gas to make it to the end zone. With 30 yards to go, I was thinking we're in good field position if get caught. But I made it to the end zone. Game over."
A third-year player in his second season with the Jets, Morton became just the second player in NFL history to return an overtime kickoff for a touchdown. On Nov. 27, 1980, Dave Williams was the first player to do it, leading the Chicago Bears to a 23-17 win over the Detroit Lions.
Morton is only the fifth player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for scores in a game and the first to return a kickoff for a TD in regulation and overtime.
In the second quarter, Morton scored on a 98-yard kickoff return, the third-longest in team history. That return came 14 seconds after the Bills had built a 10-0 lead.
"We talked about it last night returning some balls for touchdowns and he (Morton) took it to heart," Jets coach Herman Edwards said.
Tyrone Hughes of the New Orleans Saints was the last player to run back two kickoffs for scores, accomplishing the feat in 1994.
Bledsoe completed 26 of 39 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions, but could only watch in horror as Morton ended the game in overtime.
"It seems surreal," Bledsoe said. "I'm coming off the field with my whole mindset figuring out what we're going to do to win the game."
Bledsoe was complemented by a strong ground game as Travis Henry rushed for a career-high 149 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.
"Our offensive line heard all preseason how we couldn't run the ball," Bledsoe said. "I expect them to continue to be a dominant group throughout the season. Travis ran outstanding, made a lot of guys miss. That was good to see."
Moulds finished with eight catches for 112 yards with 95 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter.
Buffalo outgained the Jets, 384 yards to 266, but had major special teams breakdowns, allowing 300 yards in kick returns and a blocked punt by New York's Jason Glenn which led to a field goal by John Hall.
"It's the worst day I've ever experienced and ultimately it's our responsibility as a special teams group," Bills special teams coach Danny Smith said. "I apologize to the football team. I apologize to the fans. If we had done anything today, we would've won the football game."
New York's Vinny Testaverde was 24 of 30 for 210 yards and two touchdowns -- an 18-yard throw to Wayne Chrebet and a one-yarder to tight end Anthony Becht.
Curtis Martin suffered a sprained left ankle late in the second quarter after rushing for just six yards on four carries. X-rays were negative, but Martin did not play in the second half.
Hall hit three field goals, including a 45-yarder, but missed a 48-yard attempt wide right early in the fourth quarter.
Hollis converted a 52-yarder and missed a 50-yarder wide right.
Hollis' 52-yard field goal and a five-yard touchdown run by Henry 2:35 into the second quarter built a 10-0 lead for the Bills.
But Morton's 98-yard return on the ensuing kickoff put the Jets on the board and changed the momentum of the game.
On Buffalo's next possession, cornerback Donnie Abraham picked off a pass by Bledsoe and returned it 13 yards to the Buffalo 19. Three plays later, Testaverde hit Becht with a one-yard touchdown to give the Jets a 14-10 lead with 9:12 left in the half.
The Bills responded with an 11-play, 74 yard drive in which Bledsoe completed four of five for 48 yards. Henry capped it with a three-yard touchdown to put Buffalo back on top, 17-14 with 2:37 left in the half.
Testaverde marched the Jets 59 yards in 12 plays, hitting Martin with passes of 12 and 16 yards, before Hall kicked a 34-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the half to tie the game.
The Jets opened the second half with a seven-play, 42-yard drive which resulted in another field goal by Hall, a 45-yarder, 4:10 into the third quarter. The key plays in the drive were a 17-yard catch by Santana Moss and a 14-yard run by LaMont Jordan.
But a fumble by Jordan was recovered by linebacker Keith Newman at the New York 29 and that led to a two-yard touchdown run by Henry, giving the Bills a 24-20 lead with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
After Glenn blocked a punt at the Buffalo 24, the Bills defense held and the Jets had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Hall with 9:25 left in the fourth quarter.
Chrebet beat cornerback Nate Clements for an 18-yard touchdown and Becht caught the two-point conversion, giving the Jets a 31-24 lead with 4:47 remaining.
"That was a play we practiced. We tried to put some motion around us and tried to confuse them a little bit," Chrebet said. "Fortunately, it worked for us."
But Bledsoe marched the Bills 76 yards in 14 plays, capped by his scoring strike over the middle to Moulds. Bledsoe froze safety Damien Robinson with a pump fake, allowing Moulds to slip behind the coverage.