EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — How dumb can you be?
When stupidity costs your team a football game — and in the NFL you get only 16 chances per regular season — that’s about as expensive as it gets.
And as Bills’ wide receiver Stevie Johnson admitted on Sunday afternoon in the Met Life Stadium visitors’ lockerroom ... he paid full price, and then some.
The chances of Buffalo making the playoffs after its 5-2 start were slim anyway.
But Johnson’s mindlessness in the Bills’ 28-24 defeat by the Jets merely secured a 12th straight year without a post-season trip.
His ridiculous end zone antics after catching a touchdown pass steered his team toward a fourth straight loss and served as continuing proof that he’s Buffalo’s No.1 wideout in HIS mind only.
The Bills, losers of three straight blowouts — outscored 106-26 over that span including a 27-11 decision to the Jets at “The Ralph” — conjured an inspired effort on New York’s home field.
A 5-yard TD connection from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to Johnson would put Buffalo up 14-7 with 2:06 to play in the first half.
But the fourth-year receiver wasn’t satisfied with merely quieting the announced crowd of 79,088.
Instead, he pretended to pull two guns, fire some shots in the air, then jam the pistols back into their holsters, feigning shooting himself in the leg.
The “celebration,” of course, was meant to be a jab at Jets’ wideout Plaxico Burress who had a gun jammed in his pants at a New York City night club, shot himself in the calf, then spent 20 months in prison for a firearms violation.
But Johnson wasn’t flagged for that.
His “just having fun” wasn’t over.
As he headed toward the Buffalo bench through the end zone, Johnson stuck his arms out, airplane-style, then rolled on the turf simulating a “Jets” crash.
That drew the flag.
“They said he laid of the field,” Bills’ coach Chan Gailey said afterward. “You can’t lay down on the field.”
AS A RESULT of the 15-yard infraction, the Bills’ kickoff came from the 20 and when Dave Rayner mis-hit his squib attempt, it hit New York’s Emanuel Cook and was recovered by the Jets at the Buffalo 36.
Four plays later Mark Sanchez threw the tying TD pass to — who else — Burress.
Afterward, the former Steeler and Giant was asked about Johnson’s antics, and admitted, “I’ve seen worse, and I’ve heard worse. So, it doesn’t bother me at all.
“The result I’m looking at is we won the football game. I mean, I’ve already been through the ringer with that whole situation, so I’ve dealt with it accordingly and put those things behind me. You’re going to see things, you’re going to hear things — whatever it may be — but it doesn’t bother me at all. He’s a great young player and I like him a lot.”
IT WAS a higher road than Burress needed to take.
Besides, Johnson was quick to trash himself.
“It hurt our team,” he conceded of the ridiculous antics. “It was very stupid of me going through that and I feel like I cost our team the win. It was a bad decision.
“It’s irrelevant whether or not I rehearsed it ... at the end of the day, it cost our team seven points.
Johnson admitted, “I have to apologize to everyone and talk to coach ... I can’t be doing that. I need to be mature about the situation.”
Yes he does ... starting with the fact that if he planned that ridiculous skit ahead of time ... it’s not irrelevant. Because if that’s what happened, clearly the little voice of common sense is absent from his head ... and that speaks to profound immaturity.
Yet despite the ill-considered gyrations, Johnson maintained it didn’t inspire the Jets ... though their players hinted otherwise.
“I don’t think anyone needs to get motivated off a celebration ... we’re all in the NFL,” he said. “We’re all professionals ... no acts need to be made to motivate another team.”
Of course, some would argue a professional wouldn’t pull the act Johnson did.
Still Gailey, as he often does, took the ultimate blame.
“I don’t think he’s a bad person whatsoever,” he said. “I I think he’s a good person ... I (just) think he has some bad judgment at critical times.
“I’ve got to help him get over that ... it hurts our football team.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)