Boy, were we wrong about the Jets
January, 17, 2011
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaShonn Green and the Jets gained fewer yards than the Patriots on Sunday, but still ran all over the AFC's No. 1 seed.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Music blared when the New York Jets swung open the steel door to the visitors locker room in Gillette Stadium.
"On to the Next One" by Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz was an appropriate anthem. The Jets had done away with the New England Patriots in such a shockingly easy manner Sunday night. Next up, the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field for the honor of representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The Jets trailed by a field goal for less than six minutes in the first half and led by two scores for most of the game. They eliminated the top-seeded and preordained Patriots from the playoffs 28-21 and avenged that mortifying 42-point loss six weeks earlier on "Monday Night Football."
As reporters filed into the locker room, Jets safety James Ihedigbo's voice could be heard above the cocksure lyrics and thumping bass.
"They all doubted us!" Ihedigbo yelled over and again. "They all doubted us!"
Yes, we most certainly did. I'm included.
There will be a crow shortage in butcher shops across the country. I'm eating mine with a little Caribbean jerk sauce as I write this. It's a bit gamey.
With conviction, I wrote and said on television and radio throughout the past week the Jets would not win. Like so many of you, I was certain the Patriots would smack them around. Sure, I gave conciliatory analysis on how the Jets could win: dominate on the ground, dominate on third downs and hope Jeff Gillooly kneecaps Tom Brady during the national anthem.
But as I mentioned in my weekly AFC East chat, people in their right mind couldn't predict the Jets to win Sunday after watching them get razed in Week 13.
Not even Jets icon Joe Namath could bring himself to pick the Jets.
"There was nobody in this room that picked us," Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor said. "Except us."
But Taylor also acknowledged how difficult it would have been for outsiders not to side with the Patriots.
"They beat the crap out of us," he said.
That Week 13 loss was so awful that Jets coach Rex Ryan held a funeral for the game ball out on the practice field.
Saturday night on ESPN 1050 in New York, Bonnie Bernstein and I made fun of her co-host, former Jets quarterback Ray Lucas, for being a homer and forecasting a Jets victory.
Really, Ray? A sane human being? I could sense Rutgers purging his transcripts while he spoke such kookiness.
No team in NFL history had lost by at least 35 points in the regular season and then won a rematch in the playoffs. In each of the previous five instances, the losing team lost by at least two scores in the rematch.
Even so, the Jets wouldn't be denied. They backed up their boastful claims and profane insults and walloped the Patriots in their own building.
"We beat them the first game, check. They came back and beat us, check," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "We came in when it counted the most, checkmate."
As Scott spoke, Ihedigbo kept at it: "They all doubted us, Bart!"
"We just let you guys build them up, let them read those things," Scott continued, "and Wes Welker can go kick rocks."
The Jets won, as many prognosticators said they perhaps could, by running well (120 yards) and converting third downs (46 percent compared with the Patriots' 36 percent).
"You all probably thought I was arrogant and just talking out the side of my face," Scott said of the bold proclamations the Jets made during the week. "Look at our roster, look at their roster. We got better players all across the field.
"Perception isn't reality all the time. I guess the cream rised to the top."
Freak injuries didn't befall Brady, but he did have another pedestrian postseason game. He has lost three in a row, dating back to his lone Super Bowl loss.
AP Photo/Michael DwyerNew England coach Bill Belichick's Patriots dropped two out of three to the rival New York Jets this season.
Ryan highlighted Brady's recent mediocrity while preparing for the game. He showed the Jets that Brady was fallible by broaching the stats from the Patriots' previous three postseason games. Brady averaged 5.1 yards per attempt, had more interceptions than touchdowns and a 66.8 passer rating.
Before Brady completed five of seven attempts for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Jets' prevent defense on the final drive of the game, he was averaging 3.2 yards less per attempt than he did in the regular-season and had a 78.8 passer rating, 32 points below his regular-season number.
The Jets sacked him five times. Shaun Ellis got him twice.
"This was the quarterback that couldn't be touched," Scott said. "You guys talk about how great he's playing, but you know what Rex pulled out for us were his last three playoff games and what his record was and what his ranking was then.
"You guys didn't look deep enough into the notes. That's what we leaned on. We knew we had more playoff experience than that team. We knew that when the pressure was on those young guys wouldn't be able to play at a high level. We've been there, done that."
The Patriots also made some in-game blunders. On their 38-yard line, Patriots safety Patrick Chung botched a direct snap on a fake punt with 1:06 left in the first half. Four plays later, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards for a 15-yard touchdown and 14-3 halftime lead.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick refused to discuss the fake punt.
"You got the guru on the other side," Scott said sarcastically. "You talk about how great he is. Maybe you guys'll start giving our coach some credit for knowing what he's doing.
"I love my coach. Let me tell you something: I would die for that man."
Sanchez was efficient in a stadium where he'd never won before. In fact, Sanchez had one touchdown and seven interceptions in his prior Foxborough visits. Sunday, he completed 16 of his 25 attempts for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
The Jets' defense was strong despite their offense having the ball nearly 10 minutes less than the Patriots. The Patriots ran 78 plays to the Jets' 54, a ratio that would seem to favor Brady. But the Patriots converted only five third downs, two in the first half.
Subtract 11-yard runs from receivers Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman and the Patriots averaged 3.5 yards a carry.
The Jets were the better team in every phase of the sport. They walked the walk. Sanchez, not Brady, took a snap out of the victory formation and took a knee to run out the clock.
The Patriots will clean out their locker stalls this week.
"The people that say bad things about us, who doubt us, who think we're clowns just running around and talking," Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace, "they don't know the character of the guys in this room.
"It was us against the world, coming in here. But we did it. We're on to Pittsburgh."