FOXBOROUGH, MA- Not only can these Jets talk, but they also can play a little football as well. After a week full of trash talking, the Jets (13-5) were able to get the Patriots (14-3) monkey off their back on Sunday evening.
“[I’m] proud of the way the team played. It was an outstanding effort by our guys. We came here for a reason. Maybe everybody else didn’t believe us, but we did. We worked too hard to get back here and we came for a reason. We thought we were the better team,” Rex Ryan said.
With a decisive 28-21 victory over the New England Patriots on the road, the Jets now move on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-3) in the AFC Championship game. For Rex Ryan’s rambunctious bunch, this marks the second time in as many seasons the Jets have reached the AFC Championship game despite playing all their playoff games on the road.
“This is a win but this isn’t our goal,” Bart Scott said. “Our goal is still ahead of us and we got a lot of work to do. Pittsburgh is a tremendous team, with a Super Bowl pennant and a quarterback that has won two of them. It is going to take everything we have, but I think we will be up to the challenge.”
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns in a stadium that has been his personal Hell on Earth, while Tom Brady struggled to find any sort of rhythm against a Jets defense that continually switched up their looks and earned five sacks on the All-Pro quarterback.
The outcome is quite the opposite of what occurred back in Week 13, where the Jets fell behind early and were routed 45-3. After gaining a 14-3 advantage on their home opponent, the Patriots came back with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Alge Crumpler that was followed by a successful 2-point conversion run by Sammy Morris, making the score 14-11.
Sanchez answered back by marching his team to the endzone, highlighted by a 57-yard catch-and-run by Jerricho Cotchery (5 receptions, 96 yards) and capped off by a beautiful 7-yard pass to Santonio Holmes in the back left portion of the endzone, in which Holmes narrowly tapped his toes on the turf before falling out of bounds. That score put the Jets back up by 10 points, 21-11.
“Mark lined up and saw the guy come up and press me and he just got the ball out of his hands and gave me the opportunity to make a play. I was talking to him all game about giving me a shot to make a play and he did just that. It was a beautiful pass by Mark, I just made it look easy in the back of the end zone,” Holmes said after the game.
Brady (29-45, 299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) looked to be in a rare form that has been unfamiliar than what we’ve seen over the regular season. Usually standing tall and confident in the pocket, Brady looked be to very uncomfortable as he was seeing plenty of green and white jerseys coming at him. In addition to the five sacks, Brady also threw his first interception since Week 6 against Baltimore and had one fumble.
“[Brady looked] a little confused. We have seen him before. We saw it in the first game when we played him. This game he was a little confused out there,” Darrelle Revis said.
Credit the Jets longest-tenured player, Shaun Ellis, for a lot of the pocket disruption. His two sacks in the game came right up the gut, as he was playing over the center for the majority of the game.
After getting the ball to start the game off, a well-orchestrated first drive ended solemnly with last week’s hero, Nick Folk, missing a 30-yard field goal. The Patriots then embarked on an 11-play drive that ended with a Shayne Graham 34-yard field goal, making the score 3-0 Patriots after the first quarter.
The Jets would be the first to get into the endzone, however, after Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards (2 receptions, 52 yards, 1 TD) for a 37-yard backyard play in which Sanchez rolled out and directed Edwards towards an opening in the coverage.
The drive ended with a 7-yard swing pass to LaDanian Tomlinson, giving them the 7-3 lead.
Late in the first half, with the Patriots struggling to move the ball offensively, the team attempted a direct snap, fake punt to Patrick Chung on a 4th&1 play where he fumbled the snap. The Jets took advantage capping a four play drive with a 15-yard strike to Edwards, who easily walked into the endzone. Jets 14, Patriots 3.
After making the game 21-14 with just under two minutes to go in game thanks to a 35-yard field goal by Graham, the Patriots failed at an attempted onside kick. All the Jets had to do was get one, maybe two, first downs and the game was set. But Shonn Greene (17 rushes, 76 yards, 1 TD) broke through the line and had nothing but green pastures in front of him. The only person close enough to tackle him was his own coach, who nearly pulled a hamstring running down the field in excitement.
The Patriots, who were losing the battle against time, scored a meaningless 13-yard touchdown from Brady to Branch, giving us the final score of 28-21.
Perhaps no one believed the Jets could have pulled off the victory, but, like Rex said, he and his players did. And maybe that’s all the talk the needed to hear.
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