NFL Nation: Jets-Colts 012410

Video: Kuharsky, Graham review title game

January, 25, 2010

Before they were escorted out of Lucas Oil Stadium by security officials, Paul Kuharsky and Tim Graham revisited the AFC Championship Game.
Peyton ManningElsa/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts excelled this season in the two-minute drill.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A couple hours after the Indianapolis Colts scored a critical touchdown on the sort of precise drive that matches them against both a defense and the first-half clock, Cooper Manning held court in earshot of his brother.

Asked about Peyton Manning’s ability to mount the sort of march that deflates an opponent and stops short of setting off a ceremony marking the game’s official momentum change, Cooper Manning shrugged and talked louder.

“The last two minutes?” Cooper Manning said, turning so his voice would carry far enough to be overheard by his target. “One time when he was playing basketball, he was a sophomore, and we had less than two minutes, like 1:08. And the other team is counting, 'Eight, seven, six' but it was a minute eight. Peyton threw it the length of the court and hit the top of the shot clock, and so they got the ball.

“So inside two minutes, I’ve always felt he panics.”

That set off a good round of laughs in the Colts' locker room, where a 30-17 win over the New York Jets and the AFC Championship was in hand. With those things, a trip to south Florida for Super Bowl XLIV had been secured.

Manning’s poise when the clock ticks loudest has improved exponentially since that day he played for Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans against Rapides.

This season he’s engineered drives at the end of the first half that produced 77 points -- as many as Buffalo, Cleveland or St. Louis, scored in any quarter all season.

Sunday, when the Colts offense got the ball at its own 20-yard line with 2:11 on the clock and a timeout to go, a jam-packed Lucas Oil Stadium and a full press box expected production.

Manning overthrew Dallas Clark, then threaded three passes to Austin Collie get what he wanted:

  • Eighteen yards to the rookie from BYU on the left sideline.
  • An unbelievable pass to Collie that crept just over the tight coverage of Jets cornerback Drew Coleman for 46 yards.
  • A 16-yard ball that only a leaping Collie could catch near the back of the end zone.

Boom, boom, boom and what felt like a big 11-point New York lead was transformed into what seemed like a flimsy four-point advantage.

Everyone asked about it afterward called the end of the first-half drive huge.

“They had a lead and it’s not looking good and of course they have the ball going into the second half and you try to get some kind of rhythm there,” Manning said. “A lot of times after a timeout versus these guys, you feel like they might be dialing up some sort of blitz.

“So we went to a max protection and took a shot. And No. 30 [Coleman] really had pretty good coverage. I thought he might have mistimed his jump. That play down the field to Collie before the touchdown is the play that I think really got us going . . . from that point on we really had a good bead on things.”

Said Colts linebacker Clint Session: “When you’re going in at the half and you’re being smothered, that gives you a little more confidence to know that you’re not that far away. And we took it and ran with it.”

The Jets acknowledged that the final couple minutes of the first half stung after playing as well as they did in the first 28.

“You think about 17-6, we thought we were in a good position at that point,” Jets safety Kerry Rhodes said. “But it wasn't good enough [Sunday]. They got the drive right before half, and after that it was downhill from there.”

When you've come back as often as the Colts have, you apparently get kind of used to it.

Collie had his first 100-yard game thanks largely to that drive, and said they were simply plays the team regularly practices in two-minute drills.

Peyton Manning said things don’t change that much for Indianapolis’ offense, because playing fast is what the Colts try to do all the time.

“We’re an up-tempo team but obviously the two-minute drill makes you go fast because you are playing against the clock,” he said. “It’s not a complete change of philosophy for us. We do practice it a lot. I think guys are really comfortable with it.

“Certainly in that drive we felt a sense of urgency, we had to get something going. Because they had the lead and they had some momentum and I thought that was just a huge answer to get that drive.”

The game around it was also characteristic of the Colts in many ways.

They knew over 60 minutes they’d have sufficient time to show their full arsenal and the resiliency that’s been such a big part of a season in which they’ve won every time they’ve put forth full effort with their top people.

But the win likely would have been a lot more difficult if they started the third quarter down two scores.

Out of sight of both Peyton and Cooper, their father Archie Manning also talked after the game. He said a coaching staff that trusts the offense and an offense that believes in itself are keys in such situations.

Also, while most people presume such situations are more difficult, sometimes they actually might be easier.

“Things are a little looser," he said. “The Jets don’t play prevent [defense], but sometimes that’s your best time to execute. You just go do it.”

Peyton Manning said he’s mentally drained after a tough week of grinding to prepare for the Jets.

It wasn’t fatigue, however, that prompted a half-hearted lift of the Lamar Hunt Trophy when it was passed to him on the stage near midfield prior to his interview with Jim Nantz. He didn’t raise it above his sternum, then held it low and eagerly unloaded it as soon as he could.

Kind of like that shot in that basketball game back in 1992.

As Cooper Manning’s younger brother left the interview podium, I asked him if he could confirm or deny the story of a time when a ticking clock was an enemy instead of an ally.

“I don’t know if he told it the right way,” Peyton Manning said, looking back over his shoulder as he exited the room. “But there is some truth to it.”

Time is on the Jets' side

January, 24, 2010
Mark SanchezAP Photo/Michael ConroyJets quarterback Mark Sanchez made great strides Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, but fell just short.
INDIANAPOLIS -- There's no way to think beyond the pain when the incision still stings and the inflammation throbs.

The New York Jets weren't interested in talking about great accomplishments or exceeding logical expectations, not so soon after Peyton Manning's surgical performance drained their postseason life.

"It's too fresh of a wound to say anything to make yourself feel better," Jets safety Jim Leonhard said of any buck-up-little-camper talk.

The Jets' charmed season ended Sunday amid a blizzard of blue and white glitter fired from sideline cannons in Lucas Oil Stadium. The Indianapolis Colts came from behind to jilt the Jets 30-17 for the AFC crown.

"Everybody's disappointed that we didn't go to the Super Bowl, especially when we were this close," Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said, almost spitting out the words. "We didn't do everything that we needed to win. But at the same rate, we did do a lot of great things.

"I can't even say we're second. Nobody wants to be third or fourth. Maybe in a week or two it will be different."

Implausible as it seemed before the game, the Jets looked like they would sabotage the coronation, giving the crowd of 67,650 a collective coronary by building an 11-point lead late in the second quarter.

Manning calmly swayed momentum before halftime and, by the third quarter, staked the Jets in the heart -- repeatedly.

"With Peyton Manning, if you can't disrupt his rhythm he's going to kill you," Jets coach Rex Ryan said, "and we couldn't disrupt it enough."

And so it ended for the Jets, their captivating run falling about 23 minutes short of the Super Bowl.

The Jets have plenty to be thrilled about for the future, but they couldn't bring themselves to consider any of it.

"It's hard to be proud right now, but we came a long way," left guard Alan Faneca mumbled with a dismissive shrug. "We fought through a lot of stuff. We came together as a team. Yeah, there's stuff to be proud of."

The Jets defied the odds over the past couple months.

They trudged onward without Pro Bowl nose tackle Kris Jenkins, Pro Bowl kick returner and running back Leon Washington and special-teams legend Larry Izzo, all lost to season-ending injuries along the way.

They helped rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez decipher the NFL in the nick of time. Even though Ryan declared them mathematically eliminated from the postseason race after Week 15, they won their final two games and received an astronomical amount of outside help to slip into the playoffs.

On the road throughout the playoffs, the Jets upset a pair of division champs to reach Indianapolis, known as the Crossroads of America.

The Jets might look back on Sunday as the crossroads of their organization.

"Maybe this football team needed to get here and have this experience in order to take the next step," Leonhard said. "We thought we were ready this year. Maybe we weren't. We have to take this experience and learn from it."

[+] EnlargeDallas Clark
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAll-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis didn't have much of an impact against the Colts.
There were all sorts of reasons for Sunday's loss:

  • Rookie running back Shonn Greene, their playoff MVP, suffered a rib injury in the third quarter and carried 10 times for 41 yards. The Jets' offense stalled in his absence, failing to score again.
  • Inside linebacker Bart Scott's ankle injury carried into the game and rendered him "a one-legged man," Ryan said. Scott made two tackles.
  • The Jets decided to use young cornerback Dwight Lowery instead of veteran Lito Sheppard, a move Manning said pleasantly surprised him. Nickel back Donald Strickland went down with a groin injury in the first quarter.
  • Darrelle Revis playing like an All-Pro wasn't enough. Manning made Revis Island seem like Grenada.
  • Jay Feely missed field goals from 44 yards and 52 yards, not only failing to score points, but also forfeiting prime field position.

Even so, dissecting what went into the final score of a single excruciating game is pointless when you have much broader issues to reflect upon and such a luminescent future ahead.

The Jets are an organization on the rise. As Leonhard mentioned a few times, "You never know when an opportunity like this is going to come again." But the Jets established themselves as a team to fear for years to come.

A foundation for long-term success is well in place. They're a defensive colossus and will get Jenkins back next season. The Jets might have the NFL's best offensive line, with Pro Bowlers from center to left tackle.

Perhaps even more significant, Sanchez grew up before our eyes over the final five weeks. He played with poise Sunday, completing 17 of 30 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns with one interception that was overthrown but also tipped.

"Mark played great, and hopefully that's the thing that we're seeing from this point on," Ryan said. "You see that confidence that he has. He knows our offense. He's comfortable.

"When we come back, we'll be able to hit the ground running, which obviously is a lot different than how we entered this season."

We probably saw the baton passed from veteran running back Thomas Jones to Greene. Second-year tight end Dustin Keller emerged as a money target with a touchdown reception in each of their three playoff games.

"We're close. There is no question," Ryan said. "We accomplished a heck of a lot. We thought we could win it all. We really did. We don't need a whole lot."

Except maybe some time to heal.

Sanchez ends rookie campaign strongly

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- Signs of growth abound for New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

His maturation process continued Sunday despite a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

"Mark Sanchez, I'm sure he surprised our entire team with his arm and his mechanics," Colts linebacker Clint Session said. "He didn't buckle under pressure at the beginning of the game. I give a lot of credit to that guy. He's got a bright future."

With running back Shonn Greene sidelined by a rib injury, Sanchez was more of a factor than he'd been in a couple months. For only the second time in nine weeks he attempted 30 passes.

Sanchez completed 56.7 percent for 257 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, a bad throw, but one that was tipped to Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

Sanchez posted a 93.3 passer rating, his third-highest of the campaign in games when he threw more than 15 times.

His most remarkable numbers came on play-action passes.

ESPN Stats & Information tracked them all year. In the regular season, Sanchez ranked 43rd out of 51 quarterbacks who made at least 10 play-action attempts. He completed 51.7 percent with three touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 59.1 passer rating.

In the playoffs, however, Sanchez bamboozled defenses with play-action fakes.

He went 5 of 9 for 150 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. He heaved one play-action pass to Braylon Edwards down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown, a team playoff record.

All told in the postseason, Sanchez completed 62.5 percent of play-action passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and a 143.6 passer rating. Only Philadelphia Eagles backup Kevin Kolb had a higher rating in the regular season than that.

Bullitt: Colts were more physical

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts felt like they took the high road this week, hearing what the Jets were saying and not responding.

On the podium near midfield, unenthusiastically holding the Lamar Hunt Trophy when what he really wants is the Lombardi, Peyton Manning said the Colts had just kept their mouths shut and gone to work.

Implication: The Jets yapped too much.

Others expanded once the locker room doors opened.

“They did a lot of talking,” safety Melvin Bullitt said, the bridge of his nose red and swollen. “It kind of bothered us throughout the whole week, but we were like, ‘Hey let's be quiet, be quiet’ -- the calm before the storm. When we unleashed, we let them know that we had the most physical team.

“We had the more physical defense, we had the more physical offense and we just wanted to go out there and play hard and play fast. We don’t do a lot of talking. We got out there and we play with our pads. That was the whole theme.”

The Colts defensive line did well overall against the run and the run support from players like Bullitt and Antoine Bethea produced some clobbering hits. Indy's pass rush was largely stymied, and there were no sacks of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Indianapolis saw some different looks from the Jets early as they got two quick sacks of Manning from David Harris. But once the Colts adjusted, they kept the quarterback upright and made enough room for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown that the Colts actually outrushed the Jets.

Overall it’s hard to argue with Bullitt’s assessment about physicality.

Rapid Reaction: Colts 30, Jets 17

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets pushed for about as long as a team could without reaching the Super Bowl.

The Jets held a two-score lead in the first half and led by four points almost 37 minutes into their AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jets couldn't land the knockout blow on the mighty Colts and eventually succumbed to Peyton Manning's pinpoint passes.

Manning delighted a record Lucas Oil Stadium crowd by leading the Colts back to a 30-17 victory and snuffing a magical Jets campaign that exceeded anyone's expectations outside of their own.

With the Super Bowl in sight, the Jets seemed to be a team of destiny. Head coach Rex Ryan declared them eliminated from the playoff hunt after a Week 15 loss, but the planets aligned and they slipped into the tournament. Then the Jets beat a pair of division champions on the road to reach the AFC title game.

The Colts rolled up 461 yards on the NFL's best defense.

The Jets' top-ranked pass defense allowed 153.7 yards per game in the regular season, but Manning fired all over the field for 377 yards and three touchdowns, two in the second half.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was sensational for most of the day, completing a lot of difficult throws. He went 17-of-30 for 257 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

New York's offense took a hit when running back Shonn Greene suffered a rib injury. Green was the offensive catalyst in the first two playoff games, but with him sidelined for much of the game, banged-up veteran Thomas Jones was forced to carry the load.

Jones finished with a team-high 42 rushing yards, a far cry from what the ground-and-pound Jets were used to all season.

Rapid Reaction: Colts 30, Jets 17

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- The mission isn’t a Super Bowl appearance, it’s a Super Bowl win.

Still, with two weeks before the league’s season-ending spectacle, the Colts are lifting the AFC championship trophy and should be taking a great deal of pride in it. Set aside your feelings if you were bitter about how they decided to play Weeks 16 and 17. They are 16-0 this season when they’ve tried to win.

Despite a shaky first half where the Jets seized some control, the methodical, precise and passionate Colts recovered and rolled -- 30-17 in the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

With a 377-yard passing game, Peyton Manning became the league’s all-time leader in 300-yard playoff games, with seven. Kurt Warner and Joe Montana each have six.

The Jets hit two big home run plays, an 80-yard Mark Sanchez-to-Braylon Edwards touchdown and a 45-yard Brad Smith-to-Jerricho Cotchery Wildcat play that set up another seven points.

But the Colts were able to withstand the atypical big plays surrendered and answer with plenty of their own.

The mighty Jets defense gave up 100-yard games to receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, and the mighty Jets running game pieced together 86 yards, 15 less than their hosts who have a rep for not being able to run it at all.

Now we wait to see what storyline the Colts get for the Super Bowl: Manning versus Brett Favre, with a second Super Bowl title added to one of their legacies, or Manning against his hometown Saints, the team his dad starred for.

Jets 30 minutes from Super Bowl

January, 24, 2010
Mark SanchezJerry Lai/US PresswireJets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Perhaps the New York Jets really are a team of destiny.

They're 30 minutes away from the Super Bowl.

In a situation even fewer people gave them a chance to survive than last week's playoff game in San Diego, the Jets lead the Indianapolis Colts 17-13 at halftime of the AFC Championship Game.

Jets kicker Jay Feely missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, or the Jets would be even further ahead.

The Jets caught the Colts secondary sleeping on two big plays in the second quarter. Mark Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards for a Jets playoff-record 80-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Jets receiver Brad Smith took a direct snap and launched a 45-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery that set up another Sanchez touchdown toss, this time from 9 yards to tight end Dustin Keller.

The Colts finally scored a touchdown with 1:13 left in the first half. Peyton Manning orchestrated a rapid-fire drive to get the Colts within a score.

Great first half. Take a deep breath, Jets fans, and get ready for a wild second-half ride.
Austin CollieBrian Spurlock/US PresswireAustin Collie caught five passes for 105 yards and one touchdown in the first half.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts were in significant trouble.

But a team that has seven fourth-quarter comebacks on its 2009 résumé isn’t going to fold it up at halftime and make non-football plans for the next two weeks.

And there is the matter of that 2-minute drill capacity of theirs.

As out of sync as the Colts were, it takes little time for them to snap to life. They needed all of four plays and 58 seconds, with two perfect Peyton Manning passes among the four he threw, to close a 17-6 game to 17-13. Austin Collie was exceptional for him.

The state of Indiana was ready to panic. It now believes the Colts withstood the Jets’ best and trail by a manageable four points.

Win or lose, the odd call in the second quarter where Manning hurriedly tried to sneak in from the 1-yard line will be a big topic after the game. Hard to figure that one out. And on fourth down from that close, field goals may not be the way to go.

That could all be moot by the time we’re finished here.

It’s the Jets' move, it feels like to me.

Can they get the Colts out of sync again?

Edwards catches ball, Colts sleeping

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- New York Jets receiver Braylon Edwards dropped a would-be touchdown bomb down the left sideline that could have been costly in the first round against the Cincinnati Bengals.

He didn't make the same mistake Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Edwards silenced a record Lucas Oil Stadium crowd when he scorched Colts cornerback Jacob Lacey, cradled a long throw from rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and went 80 yards for a touchdown to give the Jets a 7-3 lead with 14:45 left in the first half.

The play broke the Jets' postseason record for longest postseason pass play. Chad Pennington connected with Jerricho Cotchery for a 77-yard touchdown against the New England Patriots three years ago.
INDIANAPOLIS – Jacob Lacey played a bomb from Mark Sanchez to Braylon Edwards quite poorly, leaning to the inside on the receiver’s initial move, then getting blown past.

The Jets pulled ahead 7-3 thanks to the 80-yard play. The Colts had done very well all season avoiding big plays.

Lacey's been good all year, but starting for Jerraud Powers he got lost on that one.

A second home run could be deadly. Still, I expect the Colts to do some scoring in this game.

The book on referee Tony Corrente

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL assigned Tony Corrente to referee the AFC Championship Game between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium.

A few notes about Corrente and his crew from the 2009 regular season:

  • They called 211 penalties for 1,583 yards. The league average was 209 penalties and 1,466 yards.
  • Flags were most commonly thrown for offensive holding (42) and false starts (36).
  • Darrelle Revis and the rest of the Jets' defensive backs better be careful. Corrente's crew called defensive pass interference 17 times, second most in the NFL. But they weren't whoppers. The 224 interference yards ranked seventh.
  • The nine face mask flags were one behind the most of any crew.
  • The six defensive holding penalties were two more than the NFL low.
  • Offensive linemen should be mindful that Corrente's crew keeps an eye out for tripping. The four calls led the league.
  • Physical play is OK. The crew detected unnecessary roughness seven times, while six other crews called it double-digit times. Corrente's crew called only three personal fouls all season.

Jets at Colts inactives

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- No surprises among the New York Jets' list of inactives for the AFC Championship Game.

The biggest name is Indianapolis Colts right cornerback Jerraud Powers, who was downgraded to doubtful Saturday night.

New York Jets

Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jerraud Powers is out with a foot injury suffered in last week’s win over Baltimore and the Colts will turn to another rookie, Jacob Lacey, in his place.

Lacey’s played extensively, and the Colts have plenty of confidence in him.

The issue, if one arises, would be with Tim Jennings as part of the nickel package. But the Jets may not have enough firepower in the passing game to take advantage.

The rest of the Colts inactives:

Jets will start Lowery, not Sheppard

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- ESPN's Sal Paolantonio has reported from Lucas Oil Stadium the New York Jets will remove cornerback Lito Sheppard from the starting lineup and replace him with Dwight Lowery for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

With top cornerback Darrelle Revis expected to square off with Reggie Wayne for most of the day, Lowery likely will match up against Colts receiver Austin Collie, who had six catches for 94 yards against the Jets in Week 16.

Lowery started six regular-season games when Sheppard was dealing with a quadriceps injury. He had 32 tackles, one interception and 10 passes defensed.

Sheppard, who has started the Jets' previous eight games, will be the team's fifth or sixth defensive back. In 11 games, he recorded 30 tackles, an interception and nine passes defensed.


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