Good for you, Jets: Patriots are next
January, 9, 2011
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Jets advanced to play the rival Patriots thanks in part to LaDainian Tomlinson's two scores.INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets poured out onto the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, many with their helmets raised overhead. Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal flipped through the uprights as the clock expired Saturday night. The Jets beat the Indianapolis Colts 17-16 and advanced to the AFC divisional round of the playoffs.
The sickened crowd was so silent you could hear the Jets whoop and holler like they owned the place. Braylon Edwards did a backflip on his way into the tunnel.
And right about then the Jets remembered what's coming next.
"As soon as the game was over -- I know that all the guys were happy with the win -- but we got the Patriots on our mind," Jets safety Brodney Pool said. "We know we're going back there. We remember what they did to us."
Yes, the New England Patriots.
Congratulations, Jets on your wild-card round victory Saturday. On Jan. 16, you get to return to Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots cudgeled you 45-3 about five weeks ago.
"The way that they beat us up when we were there, it was a butt-kicking," Pool said.
"They dominated us."
Jets defensive back Dwight Lowery interrupted.
"Not going to happen again," Lowery said, pulling a shirt over his head at the adjoining locker stall.
"That wasn't the same group of guys," Pool said, "that showed up today."
The Jets left Lucas Oil Stadium convinced they weren't the same team that the Patriots humiliated on "Monday Night Football." That Dec. 6 game emphatically dropped the Jets out of the AFC East lead. That loss led to questions about them being frauds who fattened their record by feasting on opponents with losing records.
"What happened in the last game definitely is not going to happen again," Lowery said. "We'll be better prepared overall. It's a brand new game."
Saturday night's victory resets the Jets. They beat the great Peyton Manning on his home field, in front of his raucous fans.
And the Jets did it with Manning avoiding blunders. Manning did his thing. He completed 69 percent of his passes for 225 yards. He fired a perfect strike to Pierre Garcon for a 57-yard touchdown. Manning didn't throw an interception and conceded on one garbage sack at the end of the first half. He posted a 108.7 passer rating.
The Jets still won.
Now they feel like they have an honest shot against Tom Brady, whom Rex Ryan took a shot at last week. Ryan knocked Brady, declaring him propped up by Bill Belichick and not as good as Manning.
"To beat an elite Hall of Fame quarterback in his house is huge," Jets right tackle Damien Woody said. "We had the right formula coming in here. The stakes get higher. Brady probably is going to be MVP of the league. That offense is humming.
"But to beat Peyton at home speaks volumes about the guys in this locker room and our coaching staff."
The Jets can't expect to hold the Patriots to 16 points. The Patriots have scored at least 31 points in eight straight games.
So good luck with that.
But the Jets have plenty to build upon.
Perhaps most impressive about their victory was that Mark Sanchez was slipshod -- and that didn't kill them. Sanchez was off target on some plays and threw a boneheaded interception that kept the Jets scoreless at halftime. He didn't have any touchdown passes and finished with a 62.4 rating.
AP Photo/Michael ConroyNick Folk's game-winning 32-yard field goal as time expired sent the New York Jets to the divisional round against the Patriots next Sunday.
The Jets won with an aggressive ground attack that got better as the game progressed. LaDainian Tomlinson appeared fresh, as he did early in the season. He ran 16 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Shonn Greene added 19 carries for 70 yards.
"Really, it was more the mentality our backs took that they were going to run through that door," Ryan said. "Whether it had a lock on it or not, our guys were going to pound it in there.
"Our offensive line did a great job of slugging away. It wasn't going to be that you were going to rip [the Colts] for 8 yards and 8 yards. It usually starts 2, 3, 4 and then all of the sudden you're able to crack them."
The Patriots' run defense might be their biggest weakness heading into the playoffs. They placed defensive linemen Ron Brace and Mike Wright on injured reserve in the past week. They allowed an average of 108 yards a game, which ranked 11th. But a mitigating factor is that teams often are in catch-up mode in the second half and forced to throw.
Patriots inside linebacker Brandon Spikes is coming back from a league suspension. Rookie defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick was briefly suspended by the Patriots this week for an undisclosed reason.
Several Jets refused to discuss the Patriots matchup as Saturday night turned into early Sunday morning. When a reporter asked outside linebacker Calvin Pace about heading back to Gillette Stadium, inside linebacker Bart Scott lashed into a profanity-laced complaint that the Jets deserved time to enjoy beating the Colts.
Jason Taylor, who won his first playoff game in a decade, was one of the Jets who declined to speak specifically about the Patriots.
But the veteran pass-rusher put the victory -- and next week -- into perspective.
"If there was any bit of uncertainty, I think this helps erase it," Taylor said. "But it's one game. We won the playoff round. We've got to go play in the divisional round, and if we win that, we still haven't done anything yet.
"I understand the process. I've been in this spot before, where you win the first round and don't win in the second round. You get nothing for it. You don't even get a hat. Or a T-shirt."
It was so long ago, but the Jets actually did defeat the Patriots 28-14 at the Meadowlands in Week 2.
The trilogy will conclude next Sunday afternoon.
"Couldn't have scripted it better, to get a third opportunity at a team," Woody said. "We split in the regular season, but people don't remember our win. They remember the huge blowout. You're only as good as your last game.
"So Part III is coming up."