The Jets can win this. I’m serious. Setting aside the complete dissing the national media is giving them, they have a legitimate shot to beat the Colts in Indy. I always like the Jets as underdogs; it seems to focus them. Yes, I know it’s Peyton Manning and I know that they will be on the road. Still, I think they can pull it off. And I believe that it is going to come down to crucial contributions from the following three people:
According to various folks on the team, Rex Ryan pulled Jason aside this week and asked him the following question, “Jason, how long has it been since you won a playoff game?” “Nine years.”
That speaks for itself. In fact, that just might be one of the greatest motivational acts I’ve ever heard of. The entire message was sent and received in those two simple sentences. And it boils down to this: We brought you here to make big plays. You’re not 27 anymore. This is it. This is your chance to be the game-changing player we all know you are.
You think that safety at Pittsburgh was big? Your play in this game must be even bigger. You must harass Peyton Manning all game long. It’s legacy time Jason. Step up and play like the champion you long to be.
If someone at the Jets doesn’t put together a highlight reel of all the heartbreaking playoff losses in San Diego the past few seasons, they need to start now. LDT? This is it. Advancing in the playoffs while the Chargers sit home? Oh, how sweet it would be.
We’ve heard from the Jets that all season long, LDT has been a behind-the-scenes motivator, reminding everyone just how lucky they are to be assembled in this team at this time with this group of men. He knows from firsthand experience how precious opportunities like this are. He will not miss this chance.
I don’t even think he has to have a game with a lot of yardage although that would be nice. Shonn Greene and (maybe?) Joe McKnight can run the ball just as well. What LDT brings to the table is much more than just running yards. I’ve said all season, he is Mark Sanchez's security blanket. Mark’s play fakes are so good that every time LDT is in the backfield, the opposing defense has to take him seriously as a run threat.
But almost more important is how versatile he is. He will gladly block and with Mark’s achy shoulder, that has never been more important.
The other thing is LDT is quarterback friendly. He somehow has a sixth sense when Mark is in trouble and does a terrific job of working back to his quarterback to try to help make a play. It’s no accident how much Mark likes to check down to him. Actually, Dustin Keller is good at this too.
I hope that all the receivers worked on this during film study this week. Never has it been more important to adjust and create when the pocket breaks down because of Freeney and company. LDT—you want a ring? This is your chance.
This is arguably the biggest contest he has ever game-planned and called. I mean it. I think that some kind of understanding has been reached between Rex and Brian with regard to the offense. Rex will never stop being old-school ground and pound. That’s what we love about him.
But Brian knows (and really, so does Rex) that you cannot beat the elite teams in the league unless you open up the passing game. And I don’t mean just dink and dunk, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that—it keeps the chains moving. But sometimes you just have to air it out. The Jets know this. It is the exact reason they got Santonio Holmes.
(I’m actually not worried about Sanchez in this game. Like I said, I believe that him being sidelined for most of the Buffalo game actually works to the Jets' advantage and not just because Mark’s shoulder got more time to heal. You will pry the starter’s job from Mark’s cold dead hand and even then he will fight you. I think he is mentally ready for this game.)
But back to Brian. I think he has blossomed from the positive feedback to his game plans the last few weeks. He never lacked for confidence. But seeing his vision executed on the field must be enormously rewarding. It’s no longer "call in the play and cross your fingers that it works." It’s "call in the play with the flat out expectation that the offense will move the football." Period.
I’ve noted this before, but you can see the change in the offense in the huddle, at the line and on the sideline. Conservative play-calling is out the window. Now it’s “Gentlemen, I expect you to execute my vision. I expect us to win. Make it happen.”
Mark, in particular, thrives on this—best demonstrated when Brian lets him run the no-huddle. Watch Brian’s press conference this week. (It’s posted at the Jets website.) Something’s afoot. Brian has something up his sleeve. I just know it. I expect the Jets to be unpredictable and aggressive on offense. I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
Lots of folks in the football world have remarked upon how each season has its own chemistry and identity. I think that’s true. Last year was characterized by a “Wow! I think we might be really building something here” vibe. It was capped off by an improbable playoff run with a rookie QB and a rookie head coach who found themselves 30 minutes away from playing in the Super Bowl.
If you’ve never see the locker room footage of Rex’s speech to the team after beating the Chargers, head over to YouTube. Basically, (cleaned up for language!!!) Rex stated that all the home teams had advanced in the divisional round except for the Chargers who were defeated by the underdog New York Jets. Mark is standing next to him absolutely delirious with joy and the entire team is going nuts. Just a fantastic moment.
This year’s vibe is different. It’s more of a “yeah, we’ve sometimes been too conservative, and yeah, our QB has had a couple bad games, and yes, we’ve lost some good players to injury. But if you think for one minute that the New York Jets have not come to play, you will find out very soon that you are wrong.” This team has an air of confidence and determination that any opponent overlooks at their peril.
Saturday night can’t get here soon enough.