1986 New York Jets season

1986 New York Jets season
Head coach Joe Walton
Owner Leon Hess
Home field Giants Stadium
Record 10–6
Division place 2nd AFC East
Playoff finish Won AFC Wild Card
35–15 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Lost AFC Divisional
23–20 (2OT) at Cleveland Browns

The 1986 New York Jets season was the 27th season for the team and the 17th in the National Football League. It began with the team trying to improve upon its 11–5 record from 1985 and return to the playoffs under head coach Joe Walton. The Jets finished the season with a record of 10–6, qualifying for the top Wild Card spot in the playoffs despite losing their last five games of the season. They defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round, but lost to the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round. The loss to the Browns is infamous in Jets history. Leading 20–10 in the 4th quarter, the Jets collapsed when Mark Gastineau hammered Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar seconds after he released a pass; Gastineau was flagged for roughing the passer and the Browns rallied to force overtime and win early in the game's second overtime.

The Week 3 game against Miami was memorable as Ken O'Brien and Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino fought a wild shootout that culminated in the Jets winning 51–45 in overtime. Marino threw for 448 yards and six TD passes while O'Brien accumulated 479 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception for what would statistically be the best game of his career.


Regular season

Week Date Opponent Result Game site Attendance
1 September 7, 1986 at Buffalo Bills W 28–24 Rich Stadium
2 September 11, 1986 New England Patriots L 20–6 The Meadowlands
3 September 21, 1986 Miami Dolphins W 51–45 (OT) The Meadowlands
4 September 28, 1986 at Indianapolis Colts W 26–7 Hoosier Dome
5 October 5, 1986 Buffalo Bills W 14–13 The Meadowlands
6 October 12, 1986 at New England Patriots W 31–24 Sullivan Stadium
7 October 20, 1986 Denver Broncos W 22–10 The Meadowlands
8 October 26, 1986 New Orleans Saints W 28–23 The Meadowlands
9 November 2, 1986 at Seattle Seahawks W 38–7 Kingdome
10 November 9, 1986 at Atlanta Falcons W 28–14 Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium
11 November 16, 1986 Indianapolis Colts W 31–16 The Meadowlands
12 November 24, 1986 at Miami Dolphins L 45–3 Miami Orange Bowl
13 November 30, 1986 Los Angeles Rams L 17–3 The Meadowlands
14 December 7, 1986 at San Francisco 49ers L 24–10 Candlestick Park
15 December 13, 1986 Pittsburgh Steelers L 45–24 The Meadowlands
16 December 21, 1986 at Cincinnati Bengals L 52–21 Riverfront Stadium

Game summaries

Week 1: at Buffalo Bills

1 2 34Total
Jets 7 7 01428
Bills 7 3 01424

at Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

Game information

First Quarter
Second Quarter
  • NYJ – Al Toon 46-yard pass from Ken O'Brien (Pat Leahy kick) – Jets 14–7
  • BUF – Scott Norwood 19-yard field goal – Jets 14–10
Fourth Quarter
  • BUF – Andre Reed 55-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick) – Bills 17–14
  • NYJ – Johnny Hector 1-yard run (Pat Leahy kick) – Jets 21–17
  • NYJ – Wesley Walker 71-yard pass from Ken O'Brien (Pat Leahy kick) – Jets 28–17
  • BUF – Pete Metzelaars 4-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick) – Jets 28–24

  • Ken O'Brien
    18/25, 318 Yds, 2 TD
  • Freeman McNeil
    21 Rush, 72 Yds
  • Al Toon
    6 Rec, 119 Yds, TD
  • Jim Kelly
    20/33, 292 Yds, 3 TD
  • Greg Bell
    17 Rush, 44 Yds
  • Andre Reed
    5 Rec, 95 Yds, TD

Three years after being drafted by Buffalo, Jim Kelly made his debut with the Bills with three touchdowns and 292 passing yards. It wasn't enough as Ken O'Brien tossed for 318 yards and two scores in New York's 28-24 win.

Week 2: vs. New England Patriots

The NFL scheduled the Jets to host the Patriots in a rare Thursday night game. The Jets were limited to two field goals as Tony Collins caught two touchdowns in a 20-6 Jets loss where the two teams combined for just 486 yards of offense.

Week 3: vs. Miami Dolphins

1 234OTTotal
Dolphins 7 141770 45
Jets 3 280146 51


The Jets-Dolphins rivalry reached an apex in this Week 3 matchup as Ken O'Brien and Dan Marino unleashed ten combined touchdowns, the last a 43-yard score to Wesley Walker and a 51-45 overtime win for the Jets.

Week 4: at Indianapolis Colts

The two teams combined for six fumbles and three interceptions as Pat Leahy booted four field goals and Ken O'Brien had a touchdown throw for the Jets' 26-7 win.

Week 5: vs. Buffalo Bills

The Jets limited Jim Kelly to 211 yards, one touchdown, and one interception as Mickey Shuler caught the winning 36-yard touchdown for a 14-13 New York win.

Week 6: at New England Patriots

Johnny Hector and Steve Grogan had memorable performances as the Jets raced to a 24-0 halftime lead. Subbing for injured Tony Eason, Grogan stormed the Patriots back in the second half with three touchdowns and a career-high 401 passing yards. Hector, with a career-high 143 rushing yards, also scored three times, and in the final minute Grogan completed a deep pass to Irving Fryar, but Fryar fumbled to the Jets, ending a 31-24 Jets win.

Week 7: Monday Night Football at Denver Broncos

The two teams used four quarterbacks (John Elway, Gary Kubiak, Ken O'Brien, and Pat Ryan) and combined for ten quarterback sacks, 22 penalties (for 172 yards), and just 490 yards of offense as the Jets ran away with a 22-10 win.

Week 8: vs. New Orleans Saints

Despite being shut out 17-0 in the fourth quarter, the Jets beat the Saints 28-23. Al Toon caught three touchdowns against his son's future team and Freeman McNeil added a fourth score. The Jets grabbed three fumbles and picked off the Saints twice.

Week 9: at Seattle Seahawks

Gale Gilbert was intercepted twice as the Jets crushed the Seahawks 38-7. Ken O'Brien threw for 431 yards and four touchdowns as the Jets put up 553 yards of offense.

Week 10: at Atlanta Falcons

Three Ken O'Brien touchdowns in the second quarter were enough to upend the Falcons in a 28-14 final. O'Brien and Falcons quarterback David Archer combined for 672 passing yards.

Week 11: vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Jets picked off Jack Trudeau four times and won 31-16, their ninth straight win putting them at a seemingly commanding 10-1.

Week 12: Monday Night Football at Miami Dolphins

Mounting injuries for the Jets had steadily weakened the club and the repercussions began in a 45-3 massacre by the Dolphins in Miami. Dan Marino tossed four touchdowns and Lorenzo Hampton blasted to 188 all-purpose yards and three scores. Ken O'Brien completed just 11 of 21 passes with an interception, and Pat Ryan took over under center but was picked off himself; the Jets also fumbled twice.

Week 13: vs. LA Rams

Three years after the infamous set-to between Jackie Slater and Mark Gastineau the Rams returned to The Meadowlands and won 17-3. Despite 350 yards of offense the Jets managed the one field goal while coughing up four turnovers and committing eight penalties to one Rams foul.

Week 14: at San Francisco 49ers

Four Niners backs (including ex-Buffalo Bill Joe Cribbs) rushed for 198 yards and three scores as the Niners won 24-10, knocking the Jets to 10-4.

Week 15: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

In a Saturday NFL doubleheader with the BroncosRedskins game following, the Jets hosted the Steelers and were buried 45-24. Ken O'Brien and Pat Ryan combined for 262 yards and two touchdowns but were intercepted three times as five Steelers backs rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns.

Week 16: at Cincinnati Bengals

The AFC East slipped away from the Jets as they were crushed 52-21 by the Bengals. Boomer Esiason exploded to five touchdowns as the Jets had to settle for a wildcard playoff spot.


Week Date Opponent Result Game site Attendance
WC December 28, 1986 Kansas City Chiefs W 35–15 The Meadowlands
Div January 3, 1987 at Cleveland Browns L 23–20 (2OT) Cleveland Municipal Stadium

Divisional Playoff Game against The Cleveland Browns broadcast by NBC with announcers Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy.


Depth chart


AFC East
New England Patriots(3) 11 5 0 .688 7–1 8–4 412 307 W1
New York Jets(4) 10 6 0 .625 6–2 8–4 364 386 L5
Miami Dolphins(5) 8 8 0 .500 5–3 6–6 430 405 L1
Buffalo Bills 4 12 0 .250 1–7 3–11 287 348 L3
Indianapolis Colts 3 13 0 .188 1–7 2–10 229 400 W3


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