Jets back up their talk, shock Patriots in Foxboro

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan (R) talks to New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the Jets beat the Partriots during their AFC Divisional NFL playoff football game in Foxborough, January 16, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Here are five quick-hit thoughts about the Jets’ shocking 28-21 victory over the Patriots in the Divisional Round on Sunday.

1. Jets back up their talk.
If a head coach and his players are going to talk as much as Rex Ryan and the Jets do, they better back it up. Towards the end of this week, even Reggie Jackson was telling the Jets to shut up and just play football. Everyone was tired of them, but as I wrote throughout the week, all that bravado is what riles this team up. That’s who they are and if they continue to back it up, then they might as well keep talking (even at the risk of becoming public enemies No. 1 in the eyes of fans outside of New York). The Jets brought the fight right to the Patriots’ doorstep and then followed through with a knockout punch. For the second straight year, the Jets won two road games to advance to the AFC Championship Game. This may be a strange comment, but I think had the Jets played at home the past two postseasons, they wouldn’t have reached both title games. This team absorbs that “us versus the world” mentality and would follow Ryan off a cliff if he asked them, too. What an upset.

2. Pressure is the great equalizer.
The 2007 New York Giants showed everyone that if a team can pressure a quarterback, it can disrupt the flow of even the most potent offenses. Defensive end Shaun Ellis had a great game as both a pass-rusher and as a run-stuffer. His two sacks of Tom Brady on the Patriots’ second possession set the tone for the rest of the game. From that point on, you got the sense that the Jets would continue to bring the heat until the Patriots stopped them. What’s interesting is that the Jets didn’t blitz Peyton Manning last week. That speaks to Ryan’s ability as a game planner that he can beat two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in back-to-back weeks with two different schemes. In total, Ryan’s defense sacked Brady five times and finished with seven QB hits. It wasn’t until about the five-minute mark in the third quarter that New England’s offense finally got its passing game going and by that time, the Pats were already trailing, 14-3.

3. That said, it was a complete effort by the entire Jets’ team.
The Jets’ ability to pressure Brady played a huge role but New York was just better in all phases of the game. There were times when the Jets only rushed three down linemen and Brady still had nowhere to throw because New York’s back eight blanketed his receivers. Even when New England receivers broke off their routes and tried to shake free in the Jets’ secondary, they couldn’t. Offensively, Mark Sanchez was brilliant. (Or as brilliant as Sanchez can be at this stage in his career.) He only threw for 194 yards but he completed 16 of his 25 pass attempts for three touchdowns and finished with a QB rating of 127.3. His touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes early in the fourth quarter was thrown to a spot where only his receiver could catch it and Holmes made an incredible play to secure the catch and get two feet inbounds. Most importantly, Sanchez also didn’t turn the ball over. In fact, the Jets didn’t turn the ball over once and were only penalized three times. That’s huge when you’re playing on the road against a team as good as the Patriots. From the coaching staff (what a job Brian Schottenheimer did calling plays) down to the players, the Jets were about perfect execution on Sunday evening and that’s why they have a shot to play in the Super Bowl.

4. Brady takes a cue from Flacco and Ryan.
I wrote about it all weekend: quarterbacks in the postseason must elevate their play at this time of year. Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Mark Sanchez all elevated their games and all four quarterbacks will be playing in championship games next weekend. Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Brady failed to take their play up a notch and they’ll be watching the rest of the playoffs from their couches. The interception Brady threw early in the first quarter didn’t result in any points for the Jets but it most certainly cost the Patriots at least a field goal. He also had trouble finding receivers when he had time to throw (not that his receivers were open much) and he wasn’t his usually accurate self either. He did complete 29-of-45 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns, but how many of those completions came at the end of the game when the Jets backed off? This was the unquestioned MVP this year and he turned in a rare dud performance.

5. The NFL continues to surprise.
The majority of pundits and fans were sure of two things this weekend: that the Ravens and Steelers would play a low-scoring game and the Patriots would crush the Jets. Well, the Steelers and Ravens combined for 55 points and the Jets beat the Patriots outright…by a touchdown. Outcomes like these are exactly why college football needs a playoff – because the action is so unpredictable when so much is on the line. The Pats beat this same Jets team 45-3 in Foxboro less than a month and a half ago and they lost on Sunday when the game meant everything. It doesn’t get more unpredictable than that. It goes to show you that no matter how many stats we look at or how much game film these pundits watch, nobody has a freaking clue.

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