In the end, defense fails Jets – not Sanchez

All week, the game plan for the Jets was simple: Run the football, play good defense, and keep the game out of Mark Sanchez’s hands. In fact, that has been New York’s mantra all season.

But on Sunday, it was the defense that failed the Jets in their 30-17 loss to the Colts in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. They gave up a whopping 461 total yards, including 101 rushing yards to a team that can’t run the football. Peyton Manning threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing, while Pierre Garcon (11 receptions, 151 yards, 1 TD) and rookie Austin Collie (7 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD) shredded New York’s secondary for big plays in the second half.

Outside of throwing an interception late in the fourth quarter in garbage time, Sanchez was pretty damn good. And not pretty damn good for a rookie – pretty damn good for any quarterback. He completed 17-of-30 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards early in the second quarter to give the Jets a 7-3 lead.

Sanchez was impressive. Several times throughout the game he used his feet to buy more time, threw the ball with confidence and took shots vertically instead of settling for the underneath pass. He played like a seasoned vet and although he couldn’t lead the Jets to a victory, he was also at disadvantage after rookie running back Shonn Greene left the game early in the third quarter with a rib injury.

Everyone knew that Sanchez wasn’t going to be able to beat the Colts with his arm. But the bottom line is that he wasn’t the problem – Manning shredded the Jets’ defense, which couldn’t limit the big play and didn’t make one clutch stop in the second half.

The one person everyone was worried about actually played pretty well. And had the Jets not gone with an ultraconservative to open the second half, then maybe Sanchez would have been able to lead them to Miami. Either way, at least this is a performance that Sanchez can build on heading into a promising second year.

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Manning continues domination of Ryan, Colts heading to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV

It’s official: Peyton Manning owns Rex Ryan like Joe Namath owns awkward sideline interviews.

Manning shredded Ryan and the Jets’ No. 1 rated defense for 377 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing in the Colts’ 30-17 win in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. With the victory, Indy is headed back to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.

In the first quarter, the Jets were able to fluster Manning with their pressure, racking up two sacks and limiting the Colts to just two field goals. But right before half, Indy used its no huddle to loosen up New York’s secondary and strike for a couple big plays. Manning capped the drive off with a 16-yard touchdown pass to rookie Austin Collie to cut the Jets’ lead to 17-13 at halftime.

The drive was an omen for the second half, as Manning completely took the game over with the Jets struggling to generate points. While New York concentrated on Reggie Wayne (3 catches, 55 yards), Manning attacked the seams with Collie (7 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD) and Piere Garcon (11 catches, 151 yards, 1 TD).

Manning was absolutely incredible. He put the ball in places where the defense had no chance to knock it down and had pinpoint accuracy all game. He knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball on every play and took advantage of holes in the Jets’ secondary. It was as finest performance as I have seen out of Manning in the playoffs.

Manning is now 7-1 against Ryan-led defenses, with the only loss coming in Week 15 of the regular season after Jim Caldwell pulled his starters early in the second half. If the Jets continue to progress under Ryan, then this could be a storyline for years to come.

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Will Mark Sanchez become a factor this Sunday?

Know what the best thing about the Jets is? No, it’s not the fact that they’ve taken on the role of Cinderella (a brash, cocky Cinderella for that matter) for this year’s playoffs, although that has certainly made them fun to watch. It’s always easy to root for an underdog, especially when that underdog is led by a walking sound bite in Rex Ryan.

Actually, the best thing about the Jets is that they know exactly who they are and they don’t hide from it. They’re a team that relies on running the ball and playing good defense, much like the Ravens did in 2000, the Buccaneers did in 2002, the Steelers did in 2005, the Bears did in 2006 and the Giants did in 2007. The formula works.

That said, is this the weekend that rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will have to take on more responsibility in order to take the Jets to the Super Bowl? Because at some point, an opponent will be able to take away New York’s running game and force Sanchez to beat them through the air. And that opponent may be the Colts, who happen to be the Jets’ counterpart in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Peyton Manning has had a fair amount of success against Rex Ryan-led defenses over the past couple years and if the Colts can build a lead, they may force the Jets to abandon the run in order to win. Granted, this might not happen until the second half or even in the fourth quarter, but the key is that it may happen.

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Does Peyton Manning own Rex Ryan?

If previous history has anything to say, it’s Rex Ryan that should have a sleepless Saturday night leading up the AFC Championship Game, not Peyton Manning. Because for all intents and purposes, Manning has owned Ryan over the past five years.

2005 was the first year Manning faced a Ryan-led defense, which he promptly shredded for 254 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-7 Colts’ victory. He completed 21-of-36 pass attempts against the Ravens that day, and didn’t throw a single interception.

In the 2006 playoffs, Manning struggled while completing 15-of-30 pass attempts for 170 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. But his Colts still prevailed, beating the Ravens 15-6 to eventually advance to the Super Bowl.

Manning would beat Ryan’s Ravens two more times in 2007 and 2008, combining to throw for 520 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Indy beat Baltimore 44-20 in 2007 and 31-3 in 2008 to give Manning a 4-0 record against Ryan-led defenses.

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