Why not invoke the Miracle on Ice in the headline? Considering what most pundits had to say this week, a Jets upset would have been on par with that. The Jets went into Foxborough today, the scene of their humiliating 45-3 loss six weeks ago and beat the Patriots with everything on the line. Absolutely nobody watching this game could call what we saw luck as several detractors said during last year's postseason run. The Jets outplayed New England and are in the conference championship game for the second straight year. That is the first time this franchise has ever done that.
More after the jump.
Mark Sanchez: Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady in the Playoffs on Brady's home field. It's probably as amazing for you to read as it was for me to write those words. We all dreamed of this day in April 2009 when the Jets traded up for Mark. It became a reality today. Sanchez was 16 for 25 with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. I can't think of a bad read he made all game. Mark started out a bit shaky. He missed 3 open receivers early who could have come up with big gains. He seemed to settle in, though, after the 37 yard pass that set up New York's first score. He was flushed left, kept his eyes down the field, pointed his receiver to an opening, and delivered a beautiful throw right to Edwards. Mark was locked in from that point. He did a great job protecting the football. He took well times shots and was smart on his checkdowns. Early in the year, Mark got criticism for checking down too frequently. There is a time and a place. A perfect example was Jerricho Cotchery's 58 yard reception. There are times where Mark has put tried to do too much in the past. At that point, New England had cut the lead to 14-11. The crowd was in a frenzy. The Pats had momentum. Instead of trying to force something downfield to a covered receiver to try and make a big play, Mark found his open man short, Cotchery, and let Jerricho make a play. The subsequent touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes was a perfect ball.
Jerricho Cotchery: Jerricho had become something of a forgotten man in the passing game this season. He has always saved big games for New England, though. The Pats to their credit did a very good job for the most part on the outside against Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. The reason the Jets added so many weapons in the passing game over the offseason was so that the passing game could still have success after that happens. There is always going to be a mismatch in the passing game. Cotchery was that guy working from the slot today. He was consistently open, registering 5 catches for 96 yards, including that huge 58 yarder, perhaps the most important of the game to break New England's momentum. I loved the run. A lot of guys hit the sideline too quickly. Cotchery fought for every last year. He kept running instead of handfighting and got as much as he could.
Dustin Keller's Block: Dustin was quiet today, but he threw a huge block to spring Cotchery on that play.
Braylon Edwards: The Pats actually did a pretty good job on Braylon, but his 2 receptions were huge. The 37 yarder set up a touchdown. The 15 yarder displayed a ton of heart, fighting through tackles to get to the end zone. He played like a man who truly was inspired by Dennis Byrd.
Santonio Holmes: The Pats also took him away for the most part, but that 7 yard touchdown was a thing of beauty. He made the catch in traffic and somehow secured the ball while landing in bounds. There is nobody better in football making that play.
Shonn Greene: The Pats had trouble stopping him in the second half. He finished with 76 yards on 17 carries, including a 16 yard touchdown run to put the Jets up 28-14 which pretty much iced it. He was better than his numbers, though. Early in the game, the Jets were having a really tough time getting to the second level blocking. He grinded out some very tough yards out of plays that should have been stopped.
LaDainian Tomlinson: At the site of perhaps the most disappointing game of his career, the no show in the 2007 AFC Championship Game, LT redeemed himself. Like Greene, he grinded out a lot of extra yardage early where nothing was there. He also made a very nice catch and finished a 7 yard touchdown reception with authority. LT finished with 43 yards on 10 carries on the ground.
Tony Richardson: Tony threw a number of key blocks on successful second half runs, including the one that sprung Greene in the fourth quarter.
Rex Ryan: Folks, there is only one way to say it. Matt Birch was right. I was wrong. Matt told you the Jets needed to play coverage to limit the big play. I said the Jets needed to attack to get to Tom Brady. Part of it was the best game of pass rushing from the Jets up front in a base set I have seen in a long time, but Rex played coverage a lot, and it worked.
The concept of Revis Island is that Darrelle Revis usually takes the best receiver on the other team without much help, which allows the Jets to clog the other side of the field with defenders to get into passing lanes. I think we saw a variation of this today. The Jets did a lot of rushing 4. Darrelle Revis took the outside on one side. Antonio Cromartie took the outside on the other side, and everybody else dropped to the middle of the field to clog Tom Brady's passing lanes for the short stuff.
When Rex mixed in some blitzes, they were well timed. His guys disguised the fronts well, and New England didn't see what was coming, subsequently blowing assignments. It was a masterful job.
Shaun Ellis: Ellis was incredible today. He had a pair of sacks when the Jets only rushed 3, and he had to break through a wall of pass protection. He had a pair of other quarterback hits and was constantly winning his matchup to blow plays up in the backfield. He pushed Brady into another sack too. Ellis has quietly put together an excellent season. I consider getting him a new contract to be very important. This kind of game is why. I was worried if the Jets played coverage, Brady would have all the time in the world. He did not because Ellis was so dominant. The Jets might not have won without him.
Calvin Pace: Pace really played a complete game today. He made plays against the run. He made plays in coverage (open field tackle on Alge Crumpler and forcing a high throw on Brady's interception come to mind), and he registered a hit on Brady.
Mike Devito: Take away a pair of 11 yard rushes by wide receivers, and the Pats ran for 3.5 yards per carry. Devito was another guy winning his matchups. Even when he wasn't making a tackle, he was redirecting runners and opening holes for linebackers to fill.
Sione Pouha: Like Devito, he was very stout.
David Harris: I thought he had kind of a quiet 12 tackle game. He made a couple of bad plays early, the fasemask and getting beaten by Danny Woodhead in space. That interception could not have been bigger, though. The Jets had punted their first time with the ball. The Pats were moving it seemingly at will. New York's confidence had to be shaken. Obviously, we all wish he just hadn't run out of gas and been caught on the return, but that is no sin.
Antonio Cromartie: I think Cro really backed up his talk in this game. He was constantly in good coverage. We never heard from Brandon Tate on the outside. Deion Branch had 5 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown, but 2 of those catches along with 23 yards and the touchdown came on the last drive when the Jets were playing prevent to kill the clock. He was also excellent as a return man. He took a chance by picking up and running with the onside kick, but the 23 yard return put the Jets in range for a field goal to ice it had Greene not scored the touchdown.
Darrelle Revis: It was the status quo for Darrelle. He was fantastic again and make a number of key pass defenses to deny Branch receptions.
Drew Coleman: Wes Welker had a very quiet 7 catches for 57 yards and was very much a nonfactor. Coleman spent a good deal of time on Wes. You could even say he put his best foot forward against Welker. He made a key open field tackle on a Welker reception to stall a New England drive in the fourth quarter. Then there was also his sack of Brady.
Eric Smith: Smith made 3 special teams tackles, stood up well in coverage, made some big plays in space to stop what could have been big run gains, and even recovered the final onside kick. He was also on the scene redirecting the runner to prevent the fake punt from going anywhere after the bad snap.
Nick Folk: One thing I tried to avoid mentioning all week for karma purposes was the fact Doug Brien hit a game winning field goal in overtime the week before the Pittsburgh meltdown in the 2004 Playoffs. When Nick missed that chip shot early, I had a lot of fear that would come back to bite the Jets or that the game would come down to him again. So much for all of that goodwill and confidence he inspired.
Steve Weatherford: Weatherford was awful today. He had 3 touchbacks and badly missed a directional kick. The only time he pinned New England inside the 20, he hit the ball too soft and really should have nailed the Pats back at least 10 yards more.
Dwight Lowery: Dwight did some good things. It might be too harsh to list him as bad. He did get beaten by Crumpler on an early play that should have been a touchdown, was beaten again by Rob Gronkowski on a long pass, and overran Julian Edelman as a gunner to allow a big punt return. His job was to get into Edelman's face and force a fair catch, but Dwight couldn't get off his man.
Brian Schottenheimer Getting Too Cute: Please do not take this to mean I thought Schotty called a poor game. For the most part he was pretty good. I loved the run for LT after the botched fake punt. The Jets lined up with Tomlinson offset. They never run out of that formation. The Pats know this tendency. Then the Jets broke it. There were still a lot of times where he outthought himself. Ben Hartsock running a passing route? Motioning Robert Turner out wide and sending him on a vertical route? The Wildcat with LaDainian Tomlinson taking the snap? I'm not just being critical because it almost led to a fumble. I said out loud before the play it was a bad idea because LT is not used to taking snaps.
Onside Kick Team: Could a team be more weak up the middle? Those onside kicks were way too close for comfort. Things should have tightened up after the first one.
Greene Scoring: I know I praised him for the touchdown up above. It was a great run. However, Shonn needs to do a better job of knowing time and score. Had he gone down at the 1, the Jets could have taken the knee and run out the clock. Scoring gave them a slight chance of scoring, getting an onside kick, and scoring again to force overtime.
- I didn't think the offensive line was terrible, but it did allow too much pressure. The early struggles of the run game were 100% on the unit as well. Linebackers were not getting touched. It improved as the game went along. Wayne Hunter embodied the unit. He got beaten a few times and had a penalty. He also did some nice things. It was ok, but these guys need to be better against a better Pittsburgh front next week.
- Doesn't it seem like the Jets are usually the team that pulls something like that fake punt that fails, and the Pats are usually the team that makes them pay for it?
- With that said, it looked like the Jets were sealed for a successful outside run. The Pats scouted it well. I don't think you can get on the coaches when execution is lacking. If New England hits it, they might score to take the lead going into the locker room.
- Admit it. When the Jets stalled, Sanchez was wild, and the Pats were seemingly moving it at will in the first quarter, you were scared we were headed for a Week 13 repeat. I surely was.
- The Jets have allowed 2 touchdowns in 8 quarters in the postseason to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. This defense is really good.
- Could CBS have produced a more meaningless stat than the one that said the Jets were the first team to beat the Colts and Pats in back to back weeks since 2001? How many teams have ever had them back to back on the schedule?
The Jets have done it. New York finally has the upper hand in this rivalry. Talk is indeed cheap. The only talking that matters happens on the field. Today these teams told us the New York Jets are the best in the AFC East. Sure, the Pats will hang their banner, but we will always remember which team won when it mattered in 2010.