FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — 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.
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