17 January 2011
The Jets took their education in winning very seriously...
My prophetic prediction that the Jets would leave New England with a 27-23 victory was not borne from a confidence the Jets were the better team. As I said in my interview with the losers (in a football sense, I've never met them) at Foxboro Blog, if Sunday's match had not been an elimination game, I would have picked the Pats...
"Here's the thing. I know the Patriots are the better team. They're much better actually. If Sunday was a regular season game I'd pick them in a heartbeat. But I just feel this Jets team has that special IT quality. I don't need to explain that to you. Y'all have seen it with past Pats teams. I just can't see the Jets season coming to an end Sunday night."
And I feel the same way about the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers are a great team. To come back from a 14-point deficit against a very, very good Ravens team is no small task. Pittsburgh has an all-time great quarterback, an absolutely awesome head coach, and a tremendous homefield advantage. But I just don't think it matters right now.
That belief is not a direct result of Sunday's dominating road victory over the NFL's purported best team, but rather a season's worth of improbable wins.
It started in Week Three versus Miami. The Dolphins usurped the lead and momentum with a punishing 12-play, 74-yard drive in the third quarter. Down 17-14, the Jets responded just as they did Sunday after the Pats cut their lead to three, connecting on a 67-yard touchdown pass to Braylon on the game's next play. They never trailed again.
Three weeks later the Jets traveled to Denver for another difficult road matchup (this was before the Broncos caved, don't forget). Thoroughly outplayed from start to finish, the Jets took the punches, wobbled, but made the play, err, drew the penalty when they had to. There's no harm in that, though. A win is a win. A fortnight later it was coming back from a 10-point deficit with under three minutes to play to beat the Lions. The following week it took almost five full quarters to beat a hot, resilient Browns team on the banks of Lake Erie. Seven days after that it was traveling 72 yards in 45 seconds to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat versus Houston. It went on and on and on.
Some people took the Jets last-gasp victories to be a sign of luck, and furthermore that they were an overrated team. That may have been true to some degree, but it was also an expedited education in winning. The Jets won a game this season under just about any scenario or circumstance you could imagine.
For me, the playoffs started when the Jets lost to the Dolphins in Week Fourteen. Had they lost to Pittsburgh the following week there is a very realistic chance this tremendous playoff run would have never come to fruition. In each win since you have seen parts of the lessons the Jets learned about winning. The Steelers victory had the goal line stand they practiced in Miami. The Colts win showed you the last-minute heroics they acquired from the Lions and Texans victories. The Patriots triumph revealed the momentum-gripping, big-play-response ability they displayed against the Dolphins, and you also saw them protect a lead they casually let slip away in the Texans game.
The one Sign of a Special Season victory you haven't seen much of is the Cleveland game. And maybe that's a good thing. I honestly do not believe my heart can handle 74 minutes and 44 seconds of football in a frigid Heinz Field Sunday night. I also can't imagine Steelers fans reacting as dispassionately as Browns supporters did when I barked and screamed like a little girl after Santonio's touchdown. I'd much rather prefer a victory like either of those over the Bills. That would be just swell.
So yes, I expect the Jets to win Sunday. I'm not sure how they can win, but I just know they can't lose.
Or maybe it's as Rex said today, "I don't think I can handle not winning. I need to win this game."
I agree. The thought of losing Sunday terrifies me.
Fear is an excellent motivator.
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