Pittsburgh, PA– Just 13 days ago the Jets were embarrassed by the Patriots on national television and followed that up with another pathetic performance against the Dolphins. Today the Jets regained their swagger as they rolled into Pittsburgh and stole a victory from the Steelers when most people had counted them out.
For the past couple of weeks the Jet players have been talking about needing a complete game from everyone of their players, today they finally got it.
Sanchez responded with a great game, making very few if any mistakes, his receivers consistently made plays, specifically Braylon Edwards (eight catches for 100 yards), Brian Schottenheimer called a masterful game and while the defense got shredded for parts of the game, they got the stops when they were needed most.
The game played out like a heavyweight fight, with the Jets landing the first knockdown of the day on the opening kickoff as Brad Smith torched the Steelers kick return team for a 97 yard touchdown run to give the Jets an early 7-0 lead.
“As far as the Brad Smith’s return, shoot I wanted to start on defense anyway. So that’s one way to do it.” Rex Ryan said, “The another thing is if Brad Smith doesn’t make the pro bowl, something’s wrong. Whether it’s as a returner or specialist or something and I know those votes are coming in this week, but it’d be an embarrassment if he doesn’t make it.”
After that the two teams traded field goals and touchdowns as if they were jabs and hooks. With the Jets leading 7-0 the Steelers quickly tied it up before the Jets took a 10-7 lead that would turn into another tie, 10-10, at the half.
Then it was the Steelers turn to hit back and take the lead as Ben Roethlisberger used his evasiveness, receivers precise route running and excellent blitz pickup from his blockers to shred the Jets defense.
But after looking like the Steelers offense was going to have their way with the Jets defense all game long, the Jets clamped down and stubbornly refused any more points for the Steelers throughout the last 24 minutes of the game.
“We gave up 378 yards and I’m not used to that, I was a few weeks ago I guess, but you know what’s great? Who cares?” A giddy Ryan said, “We got us a win, we’re right there, we don’t need anybody else’s help we’ll take care of it ourself.”
“One thing we talked about, how resilient our team is, you guys get tired of it but I don’t care. This football team is resilient, we had some adversity, obviously, that we were dealing with, but our team responded.”
With the Jets down 17-10 Sanchez continued to make plays leading the Jets down the field and scoring a huge touchdown to tie the game on a perfect play call from Schottenheimer.
The Jets were facing fourth-and-one from the Steelers seven yard line with just under eight minutes left in the third when they ran a hard fake handoff up the middle to Shonn Greene and Sanchez casually rolled out and strolled into the end zone untouched to tie the game at 17-17.
“It felt good, it was great. It was a gutsy call and great execution.” Sanchez said.
From there Sanchez led a drive to kick a field goal from Nick Folk for the lead, made possible by the play calling of Schottenheimer and execution of the players.
Sanchez said, “I think we just bounced back really well and Schotty, he called a great game and the most important thing is we executed, we executed the game plan really well.”
The Jets got an all-around performance from their team, but make no mistake about it, they won this game because Sanchez was who they thought he was and made plays for the Jets instead of plays to hurt the Jets.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, that’s was about as gutsy a performance as you’ll find. The numbers, 19-29 for 170 (yards), 81.0 rating, doesn’t speak of the type of game he played.” Ryan said, “He was absolutely outstanding, I knew he would respond he’s tougher than nails. That’s the competitor in him.”
“He had fun today, Mark showed up today and did everything he was supposed to. Kept the ball out of those guys hands, delivered the ball where he needed to with the quick passes.” Santonio Holmes said, “The same things we were doing in the beginning of the season, we got right back into it. He played a tremendous game today.”
After the Jets took the lead for the final time on Folk’s field goal the Steelers were planning on mounting a comeback, but Jason Taylor made sure the comeback wouldn’t be so easy.
After the Jets punted and downed the ball at the Steelers two, the Steelers tried a run play out of shotgun formation and just as Roethlisberger handed the ball off to Mewelde Moore, Taylor came exploding through the gap and crushed Moore in the end zone for a safety.
“Yeah it was huge, but it’s just what we talk about with Jason Taylor, (he) just makes plays and that was another great example of it.” Ryan said.
“I kind of took an educated guess a little bit.” Taylor said of his sack for a safety, “Having seen it enough times and enough times tonight, kind of made an educated guess and it worked out. I got bumped down to a three technique and hit it, really wasn’t supposed down there in that kind of position, but just improvised and made a play.”
The Jets needed this win for their own confidence and a realistic shot at the playoffs, they also needed it to talk their fans off the proverbial edge.
When the Jets were sitting at 9-2, 9-4 sounded disastrous, but sitting at 10-4 after being at 9-4 and having to travel to Pittsburgh should do wonders to the fragile egos of Jets fans.
“We needed it huge, there’s no question about it.” Ryan said.
After two weeks of downright ugly, disgusting football combined with ugly controversial headlines throughout the week the Jets finally got back on track and temporarily silenced those ‘Same Ol’ Jets’ critics and they did it against one of football’s elite teams.
Ryan said, “You know, same old Jets, came down to Pittsburgh and got a win.”