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Thursday, January 20, 2011
Updated: January 21, 9:20 AM ET
Folk hopes to erase memories of Brien

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan thinks the AFC championship will come down to one final play.

The Jets' coach believes Nick Folk could decide who goes to the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets on Sunday.

"I think that is what is going to happen," Ryan said when asked how he would feel if the game hangs on Folk's foot at the end. "I think this is going to be one of those games; I don't see a team blowing the other team out. I think this is going to be hard fought all the way to the end, probably be a three-point game. But I feel good about Nick Folk."

Of course, the last time the Jets and Steelers met in the playoffs, the Jets' kicker didn't fare so well.

Doug Brien missed two field goals from 47 and 43 yards out in the final 2:02 of regulation before the Jets lost 20-17 in overtime in the 2004 AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field.

"I've heard but haven't paid much attention to it," Folk said of Brien missing the two field goals against the Steelers. "Different team from top to bottom. A long time ago."

Folk said he hopes he will get a chance to erase the ghosts of that loss with his own game winner. He already is 1-for-1 this postseason on game winners after connecting on a 32-yarder with no time left to lift the Jets to a 17-16 win over the Colts in the AFC wild-card game.

Folk said he could feel the weight of the entire franchise resting on his right foot against the Colts.

And he says he enjoyed it.

"I kind of felt like I had everyone on my shoulders at that moment," Folk said of beating the Colts. "I enjoy it. I felt happy not for myself but for everyone in here and Rex, Mike [Tannenbaum], Woody [Johnson] and everyone around here to get that win and keep us going forward. It was fun, a good time. I just felt that I helped all these guys out, which was more satisfying than actually making the kick itself."

Doug Brien
Doug Brien missed two field goals from 47 and 43 yards in a 20-17 overtime loss in the 2004 AFC divisional playoff.

Heinz Field is considered to be one of the toughest places to kick in the NFL. In the Steelers' 31-24 win over the Ravens in the divisional round, Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham made one of two field goals, missing from 43 yards out. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff also missed from 43 yards out.

"It has been [difficult to kick there] because you have the convergence of the rivers there and it is damp," said Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who also explained that Brien's missed field goals were difficult kicks in Pittsburgh. "And there is usually some wind and it is kind of a heavy field although the field seems better this time than it has in other years."

"If it came down to Nick, I think Nick can make it," he added of Folk, who misssed a 30-yarder in the first quarter this past Sunday in his only attempt against New England. "I believed he would make it in Indianapolis. I was disappointed last week; he missed one. But I have confidence he can do it, absolutely."

Folk, who is 1-for-2 in the postseason so far, made both of his field goal attempts (25- and 34-yarders) in Pittsburgh when the Jets won 22-17 on Dec. 19.

Sunday's forecast calls for a cold and cloudy day with a high of 18 and a low of 8 but just a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Folk has been trying to simulate pressure-packed, potential game-winning field goal attempts in practice and said he was perfect Thursday.

Folk has made two of his three career game winners this season. His other clincher this season came on a 30-yarder in overtime to beat the Lions 23-20 on Nov. 7. Folk also made a 36-yarder with no time left in regulation to force overtime in that game.

His first game-winning field goal came on a 53-yarder against Buffalo on a "Monday Night Football" game in 2007 while with the Cowboys.

He did miss a potential game-winning field goal earlier this season in Cleveland, when he failed on a 47-yard attempt in overtime of the Jets' 26-20 win over the Browns. Folk missed three field goals in that game, and the Jets eventually brought in veteran Kris Brown for a tryout.

Folk settled down and finished the regular season by making his last eight field goals.

While his biggest kick to date was the one that sent Peyton Manning home early, Folk chooses to remember one of his lowest moments as motivation.

While in college at Arizona, Folk missed a 47-yard field goal with 43 seconds left in a 9-7 loss to Wisconsin back in 2004.

"It was going right down the middle, the entire way, until about the end zone, it kind of hooked left and we ended up losing by two," Folk said. "That one ... just to feel the weight of the team, you don't want to feel that ever again. That stuck with me for a long time."

That's why he hopes to have the chance to kick the Jets into the Super Bowl and exorcise the ghost of Doug Brien.

"You got to embrace that pressure and you got to want it," Folk said. "And if I ever get that opportunity, I am looking forward to it."