Monday, January 10, 2011

Jets Execute Checkmate on Peyton Manning

How apropos that after all the talk about Rex Ryan’s ‘footgate’ controversy, Nick Folk’s foot gives the Jets a playoff victory. Folk, who almost lost his job after a rough stretch in the middle of the season, nailed a game winning 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Jets a 17-16 win over the Colts in Indianapolis. Folk was also outstanding on kickoffs for the first time since the first quarter of the season, forcing two touchbacks.

Folk’s kick may have been the icing on the cake, but it’s the brilliant game of chess that the Jets played against Peyton Manning that won the game. The Jets did exactly what they needed to do on defense to defeat Manning and the Colts. They were able to disguise their coverages all game and make Manning audible into plays he did not want to call. This is why the Colts, who averaged 17 more pass attempts than rush attempts during the regular season, rushed the ball more than they passed it. The Jets sacked Peyton one time, but it was a play he had given up on anyway. Other than that, they barely pressured Manning the entire game, but it did not matter. By no means was Peyton Manning bad in this game. He completed 69 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 108.7, but that’s what makes the Jets’ win so impressive. They let him play his game and let it work in their advantage.

A big part of this is due to the exceptionally amazing play by all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis did to Reggie Wayne exactly what we would expect of him; shut him down entirely. Wayne was targeted only once throughout the entire game and made one reception for one yard. Wayne was a bit peeved with his quarterback after the game for not giving him a shot, but Peyton Manning reads defenses like no other in the NFL and knew he had better options than Wayne on each and every play. It cannot be emphasized enough how important Revis Island is to the Jets’ defense. He ruins the connection between quarterbacks and their top receivers week in and week out. This allows the Jets to send more guys at the quarterback because they will not need to worry about double covering a top receiver or needing any safety help on Revis’ side. Revis will always be the centerpiece to Rex Ryan’s Jet defense.

Lost in all of this may have been the spectacular second half play of the Jets’ offense. Mark Sanchez was overthrowing the world in the first half, but pulled it together, going 9/12 on his passes in the third and fourth quarters. LaDainian Tomlinson’s day off against the Bills seemed to give him that extra ounce of energy he needed to get going again. LT rushed for 82 yards (5.1 ypc) and two touchdowns and also added four receptions. As a whole, the ground and pound did its job, rushing for 169 yards and keeping the time of possession in the Jets’ favor, especially on the Jets’ second possession of the second half. The Jets started their drive on the 13-yard line and drove the ball 87 yards on 17 plays to score a touchdown. The drive took 9:54 off the clock, which is almost 10 minutes that Peyton Manning was sitting on the bench. After the Colts kicked a 50-yard field goal to take a 16-14 lead with 53 seconds left, Antonio Cromartie, filling in for the injured Brad Smith, returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield. Sanchez then went 3/3 for 38 yards to set up Nick Folk’s game winner.

A special shout out goes to Jets’ safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool who stepped up big time on a big stage combining for 17 tackles and two passes defensed. Pool also made tackles on three straight 3rd and 1 opportunities for the Colts, forcing punts each time.

The Jets earned their way into the AFC Divisional Round after Rex Ryan finally outplayed Peyton Manning. This means the Jets get a rubber match with their rivals, the New England Patriots. We all know what happened the last time these two met at Gillette Stadium. It would be easy to count the Jets out immediately after seeing what happened in the last game. What we all must remember is that there is a reason why we play the game. This is playoff football. The intensity level is much higher and a win or go home attitude can completely change how a player plays the game. The Jets and Patriots will both be ready for each other and will make this game one of the best and important matchups in the history of the rivalry. 

For more Jets-Patriots history, check out my history of the rivalry posts from December:

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