The Jets talked all week leading up to their playoff game in New England. Sunday, they made one of the biggest statements in franchise history.
After a week filled with trash talk and personal insults, the Jets stunned the No. 1 seed Patriots in a 28-21 divisional playoff victory that pushed them to a second consecutive straight AFC Championship Game.
Rex Ryan, who said on Monday this game was a matter of him vs. Bill Belichick, outcoached Bill Belichick with a defensive game plan that stymied Tom Brady. He celebrated the biggest victory of his two years with the Jets by running into the end zone after Shonn Green’s 16-yard TD capped the scoring and the upset.
But it was the defense that made the win possible.
The sixth-seeded Jets sacked New England’s Superman five times and picked him off to help set up next week’s road showdown against the Steelers. The Jets defeated the Steelers on the road in Week 15.
Mark Sanchez (16-for-25; 194 yards) threw three touchdowns and outplayed Brady, the likely league MVP.
After sleepwalking through much of the third quarter, the Patriots came alive late in the frame to cut into a 14-3 halftime deficit. Brady engineered an 8-play, 80-drive capped by Alge Crumpler’s 2-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Patriots’ decision to go for the 2-point conversion paid off when Sammy Morris took a direct snap into the end zone to get the home team to within 14-11.
But the Jets answered with a quick – and incredible – touchdown drive to gain back the momentum.
Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotchery for a 58-yard strike before he threw a 7-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes to push the Jets lead to 21-11 two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Holmes, with a catch that ranks right up there with his Super Bowl winning catch two years ago, made a spectacular diving grab over Kyle Arrington and got his knee and foot in bounds.
Sanchez overcame a sluggish start with a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes to LaDainian Tomlinson and Braylon Edwards to help the Jets hold a 14-3 halftime lead. Ryan’s defense confused Brady with a blend of blitzes and coverage. In the first half, the Jets sacked Brady three times, picked him off and held the Patriots to 2-of-7 on third downs (29 percent) to take a double-digit lead.
In a surprising move, Belichick benched Wes Welker at the start of the game for his subtle jabs at Ryan earlier in the week.
The Patriots marched down to the Jets 28 on their first drive before Brady was intercepted for the first time in 12 games. Brady had thrown 339 passes without a pick before David Harris caught the overthrown pass intended for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. It was only Brady’s fifth interception of the season – and the 11th turnover by the Patriots.
Alge Crumpler chased down Harris and saved a touchdown on the play. The Jets took over at the Patriots 12, but lost eight yards on the first two plays from scrimmage. Gang Green squandered a golden scoring opportunity when Nick Folk missed a 30-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless.
The Patriots marched down the field again on the ensuing drive. Brady’s 28-yard completion to Crumpler helped New England get inside the Jets 10. But Crumpler dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the endzone before the Patriots settled for Shayne Graham’s 30-yard field goal late in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.
The Jets trailed only by a field goal after the first quarter despite getting outgained 104-36 and only having two first downs.
Ryan’s defense confused Brady early with three sacks three minutes into the second quarter. Shaun Elllis had a pair of sacks and Drew Coleman, playing with a sore knee, came free on a corner blitz for a sack.
Sanchez completed 3 of 4 passes on the Jets’ first scoring drive, including a 7-yard touchdown to Tomlinson to give the Jets a 7-3 edge less than five minutes into the second quarter. Sanchez kept the drive alive by escaping pressure on 3rd and 6 and finding Edwards for 37 yards.
The Jets took advantage of a critical Patriots’ miscue late in the first half to extend their lead.
On 4th and 4 from the Patriots 38, Patrick Chung dropped a direct snap on a fake punt attempt that gave the Jets great field position at the New England 37 with just over a minute to go before halftime. Tomlinson ripped off runs of 16 and 6 before Sanchez found Edwards on a quick slant for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Jets a 14-3 lead with 33 seconds left before intermission. Edwards spun away from Pro Bowler Devin McCourty and also took safety Brandon Meriweather into the endzone to give the Jets a double-digit lead.