Jets Talk Loadly, Destroy Bengals in Wild Card Game
Back then, detractors didn't give the Jets any credit for blowing away the Bengals 37-0 at Giants Stadium a week ago, claiming that Cincy would pack a huge punch for Saturday's wild card playoff game. That was then. This is now.
In hindsight, perhaps the biggest mistake the Colts and Bengals made might prove to be allowing the Jets to enter the playoffs in the first place.
Adding oratorical fuel to the fire, Rex Ryan was heavily criticized for speculating that his team could win a Super Bowl.
Lo' and behold, a solid defense, a good running game, and an effective passing attack is all the formula a team needs to make such a thing happen. And, if recent history is any indication, whenever a team gets a break here and there down the stretch, good things begin to happen in January. Ask the 2007 Giants, the 2008 Cardinals.
Granted, the Jets must travel a VERY LOOOOOOOOONG way before they reach the promised land; nonetheless, Saturday's 24-14 victory over the Bengals should quiet the doubting Thomases that the Jets didn't deserve this playoff spot.
They earned it. They showed it. They are a contender.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez matured in plain sight Saturday afternoon. As little as three weeks ago against the Falcons, Sanchez still possessed the "deer-in-the-headlights" look in his eyes. He used to be timid with throws, afraid to make the big mistake, wondering how to adjust to the speed and power of an NFL defense.
Today a different day dawned and the uncertain rookie was gone.
The veteran swaggered in.
Sanchez was calm, poised, composed. He played with the Savoy of a five year veteran, slinging bullets around the ballpark to open wide receivers. He improvised with his legs on naked bootlegs, allowing Dustin Keller to break from his coverage in order to make big catches down the middle.
Sanchez strung the needle a handful of times to Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards to covert huge second and third down plays.
At the end of the day, Sanchez became the first rookie to complete 80 per cent of his passes in a playoff game: 12 of 15 passes for 132 yards and a sparkling 139.4 passer rating.
The Jets had entered the postseason with questions about how their quarterback would play in the playoffs; right now, the answer is, he can handle the heat.
Shonn Greene gave Gang Green nation a glimpse of its future; he ate up the Bengals D for 135 yards including a 39 yard touchdown to give the Jets a 21-7 lead, shutting up the Jungle in Cincinnati for good.
Greene has served mainly as understudy to Thomas Jones, and to Leon Washington before his injury in Week 7 at Oakland. Greene's combination of speed and power was on display all afternoon, shredding the NFL's seventh ranked rushing defense.
As for the Jets defense, many have called the Jets No. 1-ranked defense a paper lion because of its lack of a pass rush.
On Saturday, the Jets displayed a pass rush. They harassed quarterback Carson Palmer all day. They hit him during throws, closed the pocket around him, forced him to throw a myriad of incompletions, and sacked him three times, two of which came in the final drive of the game that iced it.
It was not the defense's best game of the year; they did allow Cedric Benson to chew them up for 121 yards and a touchdown, but the Jets ability to force Palmer to make uncomfortable throws, and the secondary's punishing hits on Laverneous Coles, Andre Caldwell, and Chad Ochocinco proved too much for the Bengals.
The Bengals managed only 110 yards through the air, and Ochocinco hauled in a mere two catches; perhaps Ocoho should change his name to Cero or Zero or Nada, since that is about he is worth to the Bengals passing attack.
Ryan deserves all the credit in the world for speaking his mind. It may sound brash and bullish, but he, in essence, speaks to his first audience—his players. If they believe they can win the head, the tail, the whole damn thing, that's all that matters.
The Jets control their own destiny. They earned it. Who knows what good things may come this month, or, more importantly, in years to come?
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