Jets get help and get win in Indy, take control of playoff destiny. Face the Bengals on Sunday Night Football next week for a playoff berth.
Call it a Christmas miracle.
Going into Sunday afternoon’s game in Indianapolis, the New York Jets had already gotten help from the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Houston Texans, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Then, late in the third quarter of their own game against the previously undefeated Colts, the Jets got some help from Indianapolis head coach, Jim Caldwell.
Leading 15-10, Caldwell lifted QB Peyton Manning for rookie backup Curtis Painter, deciding to rest his starters with his team having already locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Jets (8-7) proceeded to outscore the Colts (14-1), 19-0 following Manning’s exit en route to a 29-15 victory Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, ending the Colts’ bid to be the second 16-0 team in NFL history.
The win, combined with Sunday losses by the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars puts New York in full-control of their own destiny heading into their season finale next week at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. With a win next Sunday, the Jets will earn a wildcard spot as the five seed in the AFC.
It is a stunning turn of events for the Jets, whose own coach, Rex Ryan, mistakenly deemed his team “out of the playoffs” following a home loss to Atlanta, one week ago. Ryan had a noticeably more positive tone this week.
“We’re excited about the opportunity in front of us,” said Ryan. “We’re just happy as heck we got a win. Our guys competed great.”
“Indianapolis earned the right to do whatever they want. That’s a heck of a football team. We were just going to line up and play, one way or the other. Whoever was in a Colts uniform was who we were going to play against.”
Manning, who exited the game with 5:36 remaining in the third, completed 14 of 21 passes for 192 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Painter, who was booed mightily by the Colts faithful, finished an underwhelming 4 for 11 for 44 yards with an interception and a fumble.
“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart,” said Manning. “That’s what we’ve done as players. We follow orders. Our orders were not to give up a turnover, not to give up a kick return for a touchdown. There’s not many games, under any circumstances, that you win when you have turnovers and give up a kick return for a touchdown.”
The Jets relied once again on their ground attack to lead them to victory. RB Thomas Jones led New York with 23 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Shonn Greene turned in 95 yards on 16 carries.
Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez played one of his more impressive games of his young career, finishing 12-19 for 106 yards with no turnovers, making a number of strong throws throughout the course of the game.
From the onset, the Jets’ defense appeared to be up to the challenge of halting the Colt’s high-powered offensive attack.
The game’s first possession saw a six-play drive by the Colts end with a Pat McAfee punt.
After the Jet defense held strong on fourth down for the second straight possession, a tripping penalty on linebacker Bart Scott gave Indianapolis an automatic first down at the Jets 21-yard line.
Two plays later, Indy took advantage as RB Joseph Addai burst up the middle for a 21-yard TD run. However, the extra point attempt by Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri was blocked by Jets LB Bryan Thomas, making the Indy lead 6-0, with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Jets appeared to be building off the momentum of the blocked extra-point on the ensuing possession.
The Jets caught a break as a Sanchez interception was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Colts’ cornerback Kelvin Hayden and a ten-yard rush on second down by Thomas Jones gave New York possession inside the Indianapolis 50.
Gang Green’s luck ran out on the very next play as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called for a reverse. The cute playcalling ended up costing New York as WR David Clowney was dropped for a 14-yard loss, stalling the drive and forcing a punt.
Manning went to work, leading Indianapolis on a 10-play, 86 yard drive which was encapsulated by a 22-yard field goal by Vinatieri, to extend the Colts lead to 9-0 with 11:50 remaining in the second quarter.
Two possessions later, the Jets’ offense finally got going. Starting from their own 20, Sanchez completed short passes to receivers Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery to put the Jets in Indianapolis territory.
On first-and-10 from the Colts’ 42, RB Shonn Greene hit a hole and took off down the right side for 21 yards. Two plays later, Sanchez was laid out by an unblocked Dwight Freeney, sacking the rookie for a loss of eight yards.
On the very next play, on third down, Sanchez completed a short pass on the right side to WR David Clowney, setting up a 35-yard attempt for kicker Jay Feely. Feely connected, capping off the 11-play, 63-yard drive, and cutting the Colts’ lead to six points.
Getting the ball back with just under two minutes remaining in the half, the Jets’ defense stood strong against the Colts’ attack. Manning overthrew passes to Clark and Wayne on second and third down, forcing a punt and bringing the half to a close with Indianapolis holding onto a 9-3 lead.
Gang Green came sprinting out of the gates to begin the second half. Literally.
Brad Smith took the second half kickoff 106 yards, down the right sideline and to the house, to give the Jets the lead, 10-9 to begin the second half. Smith’s return was the longest play New York Jets franchise history, and tied the record for the second longest in NFL history.
But as fast as Brad Smith sprinted up field to give New York the lead, Manning and the Colts took it right back.
Manning orchestrated a nine play, 81-yard drive, highlighted by deep passes to Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, and ending with a 1-yard touchdown dash by RB Donald Brown. Manning was razor-sharp on the drive, going 4-4 for 69 yards. Indianapolis’s two-point attempt failed, making it a 15-10 ballgame with 10:13 remaining in the third.
The Jets offense responded once again, as Sanchez led the Jets inside Indianapolis territory, completing key third down passes to Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. But on third-and-3 from the Indy 39-yard line, the Jets offensive line failed to block Dwight Freeney again, as Sanchez was sacked for the second time on the day, ending the drive.
With just six minutes in the game, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell handed the keys over to his backup quarterback, rookie Curtis Painter. With the five point lead, the timing of Caldwell’s decision was definitely questionable and would end up costing Indianapolis. Painter, who had not thrown a pass all season heading into the game, completed his first pass to WR Hank Baskett, but was unable to convert a first down.
From that point onward, the Colts appeared like a flat, deflated team that just had all of their air and momentum sucked out of them.
The Jets took over with strong field position at their own 40, following a 14-yard punt return by Jerricho Cotchery. Three straight runs by Shonn Greene brought the Jets inside the Indy 40, but Sanchez and company could not take advantage. Not yet.
After a Steve Weatherford punt pinned the Colts back at their own 20-yard line, QB Curtis Painter was sacked on first down by Jets’ linebacker Calvin Pace. Pace hit Painter as he was starting his throwing motion and the ball popped loose.
Jets DE Marques Douglas pounced on the ball in the end zone, giving the Jets an 18-15 lead, following a successful two-point conversion.
Painter trotted out once again on the next possession with a group of other backups. With the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd booing heavily, Painter and the backups followed suit with an uninspired, three and out as the third quarter came to a close.
A 43-yard boot by Feely on the ensuing drive, extended New York’s lead to 21-15 with 13:23 to go in the game.
The Jets used an 11-play, 79-yard drive to eat up six minutes and fourteen seconds of the fourth quarter, ending with a 1-yard TD run by Thomas Jones. The key play of the drive; a 29-yard dash down the right side by Jones on second-and-2.
A second-successful two-point conversion put the Jets on top, 29-15, with the game all but decided with just less than six minutes remaining.
Bryan Thomas’s first quarter blocked extra-point was the second of his career and the Jets’ first PAT block since 2002…Indianapolis was held to under 10 points in the first half for only the fourth time this season…With a third quarter completion, Peyton Manning became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 50,000 yard mark…Sunday’s game was QB Mark Sanchez’s sixth game without an interception this season. The Jets are 4-2 in these games…Brad Smith’s 104-yard kickoff return marked the 12th kickoff return for a touchdown under special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, in his nine seasons at the helm.
JETS FINISH IN PRIME TIME
The NFL announced tonight that the Jets- Bengals matchup next Sunday at the Meadowlands has been flexed to NBC Sunday Night Football. Game time is 8:30 PM.
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