The Jets will play for the Championship of the American Football Conference for the first time since the 1998-99 season next week in Indianapolis. Gang Green earned this right by going out to San Diego and beating the Chargers today by a 17-14 score. The team that "didn't belong" and "only got in because other teams laid down" is a game from its first Super Bowl in 41 years. The Jets went across the country and beat the hottest team in football on its home field. Will respect start coming? I doubt it. Should it come? It should have weeks ago.
More after the jump.
Shonn Greene: The rookie from Iowa's Playoff coming out party continued. Shonn ran for 128 yards on 23 carries. His 53 yard touchdown run put the Jets up 17-7 with under 10:00 left in the game. It was a great display of power breaking a tackle and speed running away from the defense. His 5 yard run on third down during New York's final drive put New York in a position to go for it on fourth down, pick up the first down, and run out the clock. Greene is the best running back the Jets have at this point.
Kerry Rhodes: His midseason benching feels like a long time ago. Kerry was terrific in coverage. He constantly blanketed his man. He also had a sack as a blitzer on a critical third down in the fourth quarter and made a great catch on San Diego's onside kick.
Jim Leonhard: He finished with 6 tackles. He got to Rivers a few times as a blitzer. He was strong in coverage. He intercepted a pass, perhaps the turning point of the game. He forced a fumble that got wiped out by a questionable overturn. New York's safeties could not have played better.
Darrelle Revis: Jack Bauer returned to television tonight. The only greater hero played right before 24 went on, shut down every receiver he was matched up against, had a highlight reel interception by making a great play to break up a pass, and had a big return on a missed field goal.
Mark Sanchez: There were a few mistakes today. He threw an interception and tried to fit more balls into coverage than he should have instead of checking down to open receivers. With that said, he did enough for the Jets to win. He bought time with his mobility and hit some critical passes, finding windows in the coverage and executing perfect throws. The touchdown to Dustin Keller for the lead was all Sanchez.
David Harris: Harris showed up in a big way with 10 tackles.
Sione Pouha: Pouha dominated San Diego's interior line. He was probably the biggest reason LaDainian Tomlinson ran for only 24 yards on 12 carries. He also did a good job as a pass rusher pushing linemen into Philip Rivers' face.
Mike Devito: That's a really good time for your first sack of the year.
Steve Weatherford: There were some good punts. There were some bad punts. The one he killed in the second half inside the 10 set up the critical interception, though.
Going for it: Good for Rex going for the win on the last drive on fourth and one. The Jets have the best run game in the league. They have the best defense. They had a chance to end it. You don't give an opponent a chance to get off the mat. If that run game can't get a single yard, and that defense can't prevent a one minute scoring drive, your team doesn't deserve to play for a championship. Rex talks about believing in his team. He showed it with that call. Plus the Jets had just escaped a blocked punt earlier.
Brian Schottenheimer: I really didn't understand what Schottenheimer was doing. The play where he sent Sanchez in motion from under center was a case of trying to get too cute. After faking end arounds to Brad Smith, the time he actually ran one, Jerricho Cotchery got the ball. Cotchery is nowhere near as explosive in space. He dances around too much. Why have Danny Woodhead in as a blocker on third down? He's the smallest back on the team and not a particularly great blocker. His playcalling was too predictable. He also split the carries too evenly between Greene and Jones even though Greene is more dangerous. Brian has become something of a polarizing figure in Jets circles. Some fans were thrilled to hear he was a candidate for the Bills job. Others were thrilled when he pulled out the running. I don't think he's great. I don't think he's terrible. He's just a mediocre coordinator with some good games and some bad games.
Eric Smith: Smith got burned in coverage on Antonio Gates and Darren Sproles a few times and missed tackles.
Cotchery as a punt returner: There was one good return, but Cotchery fair catches when he has open field in front of him. He doesn't when there's no room. He dances around instead of going forward. It's not pretty.
- The kicker position reminds me a lot of the job the closer does in baseball. It's a specialized role that can either win or lose games. Nate Kaeding reminds me of another San Diego legend, Trevor Hoffman, a former closer for the Padres. Both are automatic until a game means something.
I don't even know how to put this into words. The Jets are a game away from going to the Super Bowl. They are two away from something we've only dreamed of. Things only get tougher, though. San Diego's a tough team. The next test is bigger. Let's worry about that later in the week, though. Just savor this win for the time being. The final four isn't something we get to enjoy much as Jets fans.