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Jets vs. Steelers AFC Championship Game: Was It Really Won By the Better Team?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers holds up the Lamar Hunt trophy as former Steeler Rocky Bleier looks on after the Steelers defeated the New York Jets 24 to 19 in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Pauly KwestelCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2011

The New York Jets' magical season came to an end Sunday when they lost the AFC Championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-19. The Jets had trailed 24-0 at one point, but their comeback effort came up just short.

In the AFC Championship game, both teams are usually two of the best teams in the league, and it usually provides a very even matchup. The result is usually that the better team wins.

This year's AFC Championship matched up two of the best teams in football, and in turn was a very even matchup. But it is very hard to say the better team won.

There is absolutely no argument that the Pittsburgh Steelers played a much better game then the Jets. After the game, Jets head coach Rex Ryan said the Jets “played a great half, but unfortunately not a whole game.”

Following the game on SNY's postgame coverage, Ray Lucas said that after watching the game, he still believes the Jets were better the Steelers. The truth is, they were. Unfortunately, they forgot the game started in the first half.  Replay the game, and I have no doubts the Jets would be going to the Super Bowl. 

The Jets made a great comeback in the second half. Pittsburgh’s gameplan was more conservative, but at the same time, Pittsburgh was tired. They couldn’t do in the second half what they did in the first half.

This morning I got a text message from a friend saying, "As much as this loss hurts, three years ago we all would have signed up for back-to-back AFC Championship games." 

My response was, "Yes I agree, but no...not this game, not when when we should have won this game, when we WOULD have won this game." 

Mark Sanchez has been becoming an elite quarterback this season, but that didn't mean I ever trusted him to lead us down the field at the end of the game.

Until Sunday. 

Sanchez has led the Jets down the field five times for game-winning or tying points. On Sunday, there was no doubt in my mind that when he got the ball back, he would do it again. But he was never given that chance. 

The Jets got off to a slow start, but even at 17-0 I knew hope wasn't lost. My father has this strange rule that whenever a team is up 17-0 at halftime, they go on to lose. I have no statistical evidence to back that up, but whenever we watch games together, that stat always rings true. 

If the Jets went into the half down, I was hoping my father's law would come true. Then the Mark Sanchez fumble happened. I knew then that if the Jets made something of this game, that fumble would cost them big time. 

The Jets made a run in the second half, but came up short, and their season finished as a failure. They should have won this game, despite their terrible first half performance. If Sanchez gets the ball again, the Jets win the game. Pittsburgh’s defense was too tired to stop them.

The Jets were beaten 45-3 by the New England Patriots this season. They said the loss was a fluke. Many people scoffed at that notion. The Jets got lucky; they got a second chance at the Patriots.

The Jets used that second chance to knock the Patriots out of the playoffs. Give the Jets a second chance at the Steelers, and if the Jets show up at the opening kickoff, they would be the ones going to Dallas instead of the Steelers.

But unfortunately for the Jets, the beauty of the NFL playoffs is that there are no second chances. There’s no best-of-seven series. It’s one game, and the Jets did not show up when it counted.

The Jets don’t deserve to go to the Super Bowl after the performance they put in during the first half. But this one just stings for the fans as it was still a winnable game, and if Sanchez got the ball one more time, he could have made magic and sent the Jets to Dallas. 

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