The New York Jets have fallen one game short of the Super Bowl for the second straight season. Like last year’s AFC Championship game, the Jets only showed up for 30 minutes. Last year they played a great first half, but a terrible second half. This season they did the opposite.
The Jets came out very tired and cold in the subfreezing temperatures in Pittsburgh. They missed many tackles in the first half and allowed Rashard Mendenhall to rush for 95 of his 121 yards. After going down 17-0, quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was returned by Steelers’ cornerback William Gay for a touchdown. Sanchez appeared to be badly hurt after the play, but would not miss a beat and jumped right back onto the field after the ensuing kickoff. With a little over a minute to go before halftime, Sanchez led the Jets into Steelers territory where Nick Folk would barely squeeze a 42-yard field goal through the uprights to leave the Jets in a 24-3 hole at the half.
Reports say that Mark Sanchez gave an outstanding and inspiring halftime speech to the team, but any information about this speech has not been released. His words must have meant a lot to his teammates because they would rally from this point on. The Jets would drive 90 yards in less than three minutes and would score on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. After a dropped interception and a roughing the punter penalty, the Jets were able to intercept Ben Roethlisberger for the second time in the game, but would go three and out soon after. The Jets’ next possession would define the game for them. The Jets would drive 80 yards down the field and take up over eight minutes, only to turn the ball over on downs at the Steelers’ one-yard line. Roethlisberger would fumble the snap on the next play and would be touched down in the end zone for a safety, the second time the Jets forced one on the Steelers this season. Down 24-12, the Jets got the ball back in good field position, only to waste it with a lack of urgency. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called run plays that went no where and only ate up more time, but the Jets would eventually score and bring themselves within five points of the Steelers. With about three minutes left in the game, the Jets chose to kick the ball off to the Steelers and rely on the defense to get the ball back for them. After two successful first downs and the Jets out of timeouts, the Steelers would line up in the victory formation and kneel down to run the rest of the clock out, winning the game 24-19.
The Jets missed many opportunities in this game, but were still one play away from winning the game. With first and goal from the two-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Mark Sanchez’s headset went out and he had to run to the sidelines to get the play calls. After Shonn Greene pushed them to the one on first down, Schottenheimer would call two straight pass plays, one that was dropped by Dustin Keller who did not appear to be ready for the ball, and the other knocked down at the line of scrimmage. On fourth down, LaDainian Tomlinson was given the ball and failed to gain any ground. Schottenheimer’s play calling can once again be questioned for the entirety of this game, but another big question is why was LT getting the ball when Shonn Greene averaged 5.8 ypc (LT had 1.8)? Mistakes like this cost the Jets the second half, but the entire team cost them the game by digging themselves into too deep of a hole in the first half.
Mark Sanchez had his third great game this postseason. He threw for 233 yards, 2 touchdowns, and earned an impressive passer rating of 102.2. Sanchez has shown his ability to make plays and play well in the postseason and will definitely be increasing his Jets franchise postseason wins record over the course of his career.
We now take the time to reflect on the season that was for the Jets. Sanchez did not have a sophomore slump like many expected and showed a great amount of maturity as the season went on. He showed the ability to win, not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well. Jet fans can be confident that we finally have a quarterback for the present and the future. The Jets won 11 games this [regular] season; their highest total since 1998. They had the most exciting season of any team in the NFL and were, in my opinion, the most entertaining team off the field as well. We remember HBO’s Hard Knocks over the summer and all the commotion that it brought. We remember Rex Ryan’s “Let’s go eat a ******* snack!” speech. LaDainian Tomlinson had a rebirth this year with the Jets and Shonn Greene helped him carry the load. Even through injuries, the defense fought hard all season long and was a big reason why the Jets went as far as they did this year. Gang Green won many exciting games that came down to the wire, including the miracle drive against the Houston Texans that no one could have expected. The Jets and their fans have no reason to hang their heads in shame. Sure this loss is more disappointing than last year, but the team has shown that it has the ability to win and win for a long time to come. As fans, lets hope that the NFL resolves the Collective Bargaining Agreement issues so the Jets have a chance to get back to, and surpass, this level. Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on fantastic seasons and for the opportunity to take home the Lombardi Trophy.