It's funny how things in life change and how it can be seen in almost every aspect. The same can be said for the New York Jets. At one time they found their playoff aspirations to be on life-support just weeks ago after another late-game break down against the Atlanta Falcons.
But thanks to a solid all-around game by Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, and the defense, against a formidable opponent in the San Diego Charger, the team is now one victory shy of making their first Super Bowl appearance in over 41 years.
San Diego came into the game looking for their second trip to the AFC Championship in three seasons, along with an 11-game win streak to boot. Meanwhile the Jets were looking to back up rookie head coach Rex Ryan's bold words when he picked his team to win it all, just a few weeks after saying they had no chance of even making it to the postseason.
Neither team got on the scoreboard in the first quarter, with the Jets going three and out four consecutive times while Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 36-yard FG on the teams second possession. Kaeding was 32/35 on his FG attempts, for a 91.4 percent in the regular season.
While the Jets continued to struggle on offense, Chargers QB Philip Rivers ensured his team struck first, finding TE Kris Jenkins on a 13-yard connection for the 7-0 lead. The Jets didn't rebuttal but got their longest drive of the half starting at their own seven and gaining 54 yards only to punt.
The Chargers attempted a 57-yard FG as time expired but Kaeding's kick was well short. The Jets got the ball back at the start of the second-half and an eight play drive saw Jay Feely make a 46-yard FG to bring the Jets within four.
Gang Green's defense forced the Chargers three and out for the third time in the game on the following drive. San Diego had gone three and out just three times all season.
Sanchez was intercepted by Quentin Jammer on the next drive but Rivers returned the favor. The Jets punted after a six play drive stalled but would redeem themselves after Rivers was picked off again this time by Jim Leonhard who returned it to the Chargers own 16.
Greene rushed for five yards on two plays and Sanchez found Dustin Keller for a two yard pass to put the Jets up 10-7. On their next drive Greene rushed for a 53-yard score to extend the lead to 17-7. Greene finished with 128 yards on 23 carries.
San Diego tried to rebuttal, settling for another FG attempt, this one for 40 yards with 4:38 to go. But Kaeding missed again, much to the dismay of both the Chargers side-line and faithful in the stands. They would have something to cheer about, however, after a seven play drive for 63 yards resulted in a Rivers sneak to make the score 17-14.
However, their defense couldn't stop the Jets from gaining a first down and, without any time-outs left, the Sanchez would kneel out the clock and clinch the upset of the weekend as the Jets won their second straight road play-off game.
Their task doesn't get any easier as they now face the Indianapolis Colts, who the Jets defeated en route to clinching a playoff berth. However, that was known as the Jets vs. the Colts B team as they took out Peyton Manning at half-time along with much of their regulars having already clinched a first-round bye.
Regardless of the outcome next week the team can bask in the glory of knocking out two division champions and can make Ryan look all the more better if they can continue their upset streak.
The Good : Despite throwing his first interception of the postseason, Mark Sanchez looked more of a seasoned veteran opposed to a rookie coming through when it mattered most and making his passes count. Although he finished 12 of 23 for 100 yards he got the job done.
The Bad : Can't think of anything that stood out that affected the outcome of the game. Jim Leonhard might need to tighten his helmet though.
The Ugly : Nate Kaeding might have to go into the witness protection program after missing three FG's and costing his team at least six guaranteed points. It was Kaeding back in 2004 who missed from 40-yards in overtime against the Jets in his rookie season allowing Doug Brien to clinch the victory.
Game Ball : For the second week in a row Shonn Greene was the difference maker coming up huge on the 53-yard run and getting those extra one-yarders to move the chains.