Jets provide more gripping drama with stunning upset of Chargers
The Jets are looking like the 2007 wild card Giants that won the Super Bowl
Despite a slow start, the Jets wisely stuck to their running game, and it paid off
The Jets slowed the Chargers by being more physical in the second half
SAN DIEGO -- I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict the Colts will play their starters the whole way against the Jets this time.
They'd better because this Rex Ryan-coached team is nothing you want to fool with, at least not the way Indianapolis fooled with New York the last time it faced the Jets in Week 16's infamous "Rest-gate" episode at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That's the game, of course, that gave Ryan's team its unlikely wild-card path to the playoffs, and I'm assuming both the Colts and Chargers might be regretting Indy's approach to resting its starters in the second half of that matchup. Come to think of it, I know San Diego thinks it was a damnable idea in the wake of the Jets' stunning 17-14 upset of the Chargers in Sunday's AFC Divisional round playoff game at a crestfallen Qualcomm Stadium.
"It was ugly, but that's how we play," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said of the aesthetic quality of the win that put New York in the AFC title game for the first time since the Bill Parcells era in 1999. "This isn't the Golden State Warriors (or) the Phoenix Suns. This is the old-school Pistons. It's going to be ugly. It's not entertaining. I know the league and a lot of guys would prefer to see [the Chargers] so they can build it up, but we got them old grimy Jets here, so tune in if you want to."
Oh, we'll tune in all right. How can anyone turn away from this Jets season now? It's the most gripping weekly drama the NFL has going in the playoffs, with the favorites winning everywhere else in the divisional round and the three teams that looked invincible for so much of the year -- the Colts, Saints and Vikings -- easily punching their tickets to the conference championships.
The more I watch these Jets (11-7), the more I see shades of the 2007 Giants, with their memorable wild-card run to the Super Bowl, played entirely on the road. After back-to-back New York wins at Cincinnati and San Diego, who can be entirely sure that some very recent history isn't repeating itself?
It's the Jets alone who have shown the potential to surprise this postseason, and yet nothing they accomplished before Sunday remotely prepared us for what they did to San Diego (13-4), the hottest team in the league with 11 consecutive wins entering play. The Chargers were two days shy of having not lost for three months, and yet New York kept hanging around all afternoon as San Diego self-destructed beneath an avalanche of uncharacteristic mistakes and missed opportunities. Oh, and the Chargers' season-long, franchise-record streak of scoring at least 20 points in every game this year? That's gone, gone, gone, too.
"We knew it was going to be an all-day event, that's for sure," said Ryan, the ever-confident rookie Jets head coach. "We were just fortunate to come out on top. [Now] we'll see what happens in the matchup that probably nobody wanted. But too bad. Here we come."
The Jets are on their way to the AFC title game in Indianapolis because they kept pounding away in their Shonn Greene-led running game even after they fell behind 7-0 early in the second quarter; decided to challenge the Chargers' bevy of dangerous receivers with a more physical style of coverage; and because they refuse to believe that starting a rookie at quarterback dooms them to postseason failure.
First, let's explore the Jets' decision to switch to strictly man coverage in the second half, a move that allowed New York's physicality to show through on defense, and seemed to weaken the resolve of the Chargers offense. The Jets all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis said as much, calling out San Diego's receivers for being soft. That's my word, not his. But I don't think he'd disagree.
"They're a finesse offense, and we felt that we're a physical team," said Revis, whose flat-on-his-back interception of Philip Rivers in the third quarter personified both the Jets' effort and their ability to make the improbable happen. "In the first half, they had us on our heels a little bit. But we came in here [at halftime] and just adjusted in the second half. We said let's stick to what we've been doing the whole season. Let's play man coverage and get physical with these guys.
"Let's blitz and do what we do. Let's put some pressure on them. One thing you can do with big receivers is get physical with those guys. We came out with the mindset of let's out-physical these guys, and we had the upper hand on them at that point."
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