In the days leading up to Saturday night's 17-16 victory, the New York Jets said they weren't going to change their approach on defense or to Peyton Manning. We're a pressure defensive, coordinator Mike Pettine said, and it's too late to change.
They changed. After seeing their blitz packages get shredded by Manning in last season's AFC Championship Game, the Jets dialed back the pressure and shifted to a more conservative game plan. In fact, the Jets rushed four or fewer players on 85.2 percent of Manning's pass attempts, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
In the AFC title game, it was only 36.6 percent, according to ESPN Stats. In that game, they used five or more rushers on 63.4 percent of the pass plays. This time, it was only 14.8.
This from a defense that sent added pressure nearly 50 percent of the time during the regular season. Rex Ryan threw a curve ball, and it worked wonderfully. Anytime you can hold Manning to one touchdown and three field goals, it's a win-win.
"I'm a stubborn guy, but I'm not that stubborn," Ryan said. "We weren't going to come in here and take another butt-kicking."
With Manning down two key targets, TE Dallas Clark and WR Austin Collie, the Jets trusted their secondary could hold up against Manning's depleted receiving corps. It was Darrelle Revis on Reggie Wayne, Antonio Cromartie on Pierre Garcon, Drew Coleman on Blair White and Eric Smith on TE Jacob Tamme.
Confident in those matchups, the Jets didn't feel an urgent need to go after Manning with an array of exotic blitzes. It was a great change up by Ryan and Pettine. There was just one hiccup, Manning's 57-yard touchdown pass to Garcon, who beat Cromartie.
Ryan hyped the matchup with Manning, saying it was "personal." Manning was his No. 1 tormentor. Finally, he got his payback. After the game, Ryan, in his locker-room speech, said, "I finally got his ass."