The Jets went into Indianapolis and took care of business, using a total team effort to win on a Nick Folk field goal as time expired.
Folk’s kick gave the Jets a dramatic 17-16 victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in a gritty game that saw the Jets come from behind three times, including a game-winning drive in the final minute.
Mark Sanchez was shaky and inaccurate most of the game, but cool under pressure when they needed him most.
Down by two, the Jets got a huge 47-yard kick return by Antonio Cromartie, subbing for the injured Brad Smith, to set up the game-winning drive.
From there, it took Sanchez and the Jets only five plays to get into field goal range for Nick Folk to hit the game-winner at the buzzer.
Sanchez acknowledged that he wasn’t as sharp as he could have been. “I think we missed a lot of opportunities in the first half. I just wasn’t very accurate tonight,” he said after his 18-for-31, no touchdown, one interception performance.
But he was sharp when he needed to be. Rex Ryan revealed that the game-changing play, an 18-yard completion to Braylon Edwards that got the crucial yards needed for the last-second field goal, was a play called by Sanchez himself.
“The kid called that on his own,” Ryan said. "He made that huge throw right there."
From there, it was up to Nick Folk to try to do his best Adam Vinatieri impression. The likely Hall of Fame kicker made a 32-yarder and 50-yarder in the final minutes to give the Colts a lead.
But they simply left the Jets too much time.
Sanchez revealed that he doesn’t like to watch field goals. Instead, he listens for the crowd’s reaction. “They weren’t very happy,” the Jets quarterback said, “so I knew it went in.”
The Jets dominated the second half with a ball-control, ground and pound offense, with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson leading the way. Greene had 19 carries for 70 yards, while the rejuvenated Tomlinson rushed for 82 yards on only 16 carries (5.1 ypc) and both Jets touchdowns.
During the days leading up to the game, I wrote about the keys for the Jets heading into this game, and what they needed to do to come away with a victory.
Let’s recap some of the things I wrote:
"Containing Manning means limiting the amount of times he has the ball and avoiding the big plays from the Colts offense."
Check. In the second half, the Colts only had three possessions, including just one in the third quarter as the Jets chewed the clock and did not allow Manning to dominate them.
"Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense cannot afford to turn the ball over or give Manning a short field. That means Brian Schottenheimer and Rex Ryan must understand that...pinning the Colts inside the 20 with Steve Weatherford is probably better than attempting a 50-yard field goal with Nick Folk."
Check, mostly. Sanchez did have a red-zone interception late in the first half, but the Colts let the half run out rather than attempt to score points off of it. Steve Weatherford had a pretty good game, albeit with a lot of uncharacteristic touchbacks on his punts. But that was more about the Jets punt coverage than Weatherford, as there were a few near-misses on attempts to down it inside the 10.
"Shonn Greene has to get 15-20 carries...Schottenheimer...has to get the ball to Greene and not give up on the run throughout the second half."
Check! Greene’s 19 carries were the most he’s had in a game since an overtime win in Week 10, and the second-most carries he’s had in a game that ended in regulation this season.
Rex Ryan finally got the monkey off his back, beating Peyton Manning in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Ryan and Sanchez are now 3-1 career in the postseason, which amazingly enough is the most wins any Jets quarterback has ever had. Not to mention, all of those games are on the road.
The best postgame quotes, in my opinion, came from Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne finished second in the NFL with a career-best 111 receptions this season, and was matched up one-on-one with Darrelle Revis for the entirety of the game.
His stats? One catch. One yard. One target. Sixteen total points for the Colts offense, and a first-round playoff exit.
Afterwards, a fuming Wayne exclaimed, “I shouldn’t have even suited up. I should have watched the game like everybody else. I was irrelevant.”
MIA on Revis Island.
Next week, the task gets tougher as the Jets continue their “road” to the Super Bowl by heading to Gillette Stadium to play the 14-2 Patriots.
The last time the Jets were in New England, they lost 45-3 on Monday Night Football. LaDainian Tomlinson revealed that he had a message for the Patriots players following the game. “I said to a couple of guys, ‘We’ll be back. You guys got us tonight, but we’ll be back.’”
Asked about facing the Patriots next week, Rex Ryan said in his postgame press conference that “Right now I’m just going to focus on the Colts. I think we’ve earned about 12 hours of enjoying this victory.”
Kickoff is schedule for 4:30 PM next Sunday in New England, so I expect that the Jets will turn their attention to the Patriots rather quickly and be ready to show up big for the Divisional playoff round.
Buckle up, football fans. It’s gonna be a wild ride.