INSIDER MONDAY TEAM REPORT
Just win, baby.
There’s no way this is possible, right?
The New York Football Jets – the team that has tormented their rabid fan base for 16 weeks (at least in terms of the 2009 season), the team that has let a seemingly endless amount of opportunities slip away, now controls their own destiny with just one game left?
That’s in fact the scenario, no matter how unbelievable it may seem, after yesterday’s 29-15 upset victory over the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts. The Jets find themselves at 8-7, and the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs heading into the season’s final regular season game. While they share the same record as several other AFC teams, through the magic of the tie-breaker system the J-E-T-S will clinch a playoff berth with a win Sunday against the Cincinatti Bengals, a game that’s been flexed to primetime on NBC at 8:00 PM Sunday night.
Some have said Gang Green has been put in this remarkable position due to the Colts resting most of their starters, including quarterback Peyton Manning, for the final quarter and a half of play yesterday, essentially saying the game was “gift-wrapped” for the Jets. Head coach Rex Ryan doesn’t feel the same way, but is quite content to be unconcerned with the world’s perception of the win.
“That’s a heck of a football team,” Ryan said of the Colts. “They don’t have to apologize to anybody about anything, and neither do we. We won the game. We ended up doing what we had to do, (regardless of) whoever was in the Colts jerseys. I think that there’s very little credit that our football team’s given, and that’s unfortunate. But again, we really don’t care. All we have to do now is find a way to win this game, which is no easy task.”
It would be foolish of me, and make me sound incredibly ignorant, if I said the benching of the Colts’ impact players had no effect on Sunday’s outcome. Clearly, the Colts offense isn’t going to be the same without Manning, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in the lineup for nearly 20 minutes of play. But the Jets still had to come back in that football game yesterday. They were down five points when the starters were pulled. They’d also played right with the Colts for two and a half quarters, trailing only 15-10 when Manning made his exit. They scored two touchdowns over those final 20 minutes, one on each side of the ball. They scored an offensive, defensive, and special teams touchdown in the win, finally having all three phases come together for one of the rare times this season.
The Colts pulled their starters, and maybe that opened a door for the Jets to take the game that might not have been in open in, say, week five. But just because the door’s open, doesn’t mean you don’t have to walk through it.
The Jets played extremely well yesterday, and if they can keep it going into next Sunday’s all-or-nothing tilt against the Bengals, they’ll have an outstanding shot to claim one of the final two playoff spots in the AFC.
Nearly nobody outside the Jets’ locker room believed this team would be in the position it’s in. So what do the guys that’ve believed all along have to say now that they’re one win away from the postseason?
“We have a great opportunity in front of us,” running back Thomas Jones said. “It’s so funny how things can change in a week in this league. Last week after the Atlanta game guys were obviously upset and frustrated about the opportunity that we didn’t take advantage of. We came into the team meeting the next day and found out, ‘Hey, we’re still in this thing if we take care of our business.’ The first step was to win yesterday, which is what we did. We know what is ahead of us on Sunday. Guys are excited about the opportunity; excited about the chances that we have.”
It’s an opportunity very few thought this team would have. But, with just one game to play, the Jets are a playoff team. They’ve gotten the help they needed. Now all they need to do is win.