“When someone tells you you can’t, you want to do everything you can to prove them wrong.” The Jets’ pilot, Mark Sanchez, expressed his emotions after leading his team to a stunning 28-21 upset victory over their rivals, the New England Patriots, sending them to a second straight AFC Championship game.
The Jets executed a perfect game plan. Again, a PERFECT game plan. After suffering an embarrassing 45-3 defeat in their last trip to Foxboro, the Jets made the proper adjustments on both sides of the ball and outplayed the best team in the NFL this season. The Jets held the highest scoring team in the league to 21 points, 7 of which came after a gimme touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady was on edge the entire night and was under more pressure than anyone expected him to be. Brady was sacked five times, and was hit several more, forcing him to throw a pick and fumble a ball later. Most of the Jets’ sacks came after Brady could not find anyone to throw to. The Jets’ defense did an outstanding job in coverage and made it tough all game long for Brady to find open receivers. For the most part, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie stuck to the sidelines and took on whichever receiver was out there. Even when Wes Welker lined up in the slot, Drew Coleman or another nickel back stuck with him.
Not that anyone played badly, but Eric Smith had another standout game in this postseason. After coming up with some big tackles and pass deflections against the Colts in the Wild Card round, Smith played another outstanding game against the Patriots. Smith had 10 tackles, including one on Patrick Chung to stop the Patriots from converting on a fake punt attempt late in the second quarter. Smith attempted to fill Jim Leonhard’s role after he suffered a season ending leg injury just days before the Jets took on the Patriots in New England. Clearly, the Jets defense was out of sync in that matchup. Smith has now found his groove and is a huge reason why the Jets’ defense is playing so well in the playoffs this season. Smith has been especially good at covering running backs coming out of the backfield and stopped the Patriots from breaking any big plays on check downs, something the Pats have taken advantage of all season long with halfback Danny Woodhead and their young tight ends.
And we cannot forget Mark Sanchez. The Jets’ second-year quarterback keeps growing before our eyes. Sanchez threw three touchdown passes on Sunday and finished the game with a very impressive 127.3 quarterback rating. Sanchez has had his ups and downs in his first two seasons, but he shines in the biggest games, especially in the playoffs. Sanchez now has a 60.4 completion percentage and seven touchdowns with only three interceptions in five playoff games. His record is now 4-1, all on the road. He now becomes the first quarterback to play in the AFC Championship in both of his first two years since Ben Roethlisberger, who he will take on this week.
Sanchez led the Jets offense to a much more prosperous evening than they experienced in their last trip to Gillette Stadium. He had plenty of help from one of the top ground games in the league. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson both scored on Sunday and accumulated 119 of the Jets’ 120 rushing yards.
One of the jobs of the ground game was to create long drives and keep Tom Brady off the field. The Patriots actually possessed the ball for almost 10 more minutes than the Jets. There was only one drive in the entire game that lasted longer than 5 minutes, and that was a 7:45 drive by the Patriots in the fourth quarter that led to zero points. The Patriots looked dead at times. On their long drive, there was no urgency and no fire, something they should have had when they were down 10 points in the last frame. The Jets successfully controlled the momentum in this game and played with much more heart. The Jets wanted this game more than their opponents and backed up all the talk we had all heard all last week.