It pains me to write this. I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believed this was it. I did not see how the Jets could lose Sunday in Pittsburgh. I thought they were the better team and had the championship mojo on their side. Then, when the crucible was at its hottest, the pressure at its highest, and the lights at their brightest, the Jets melted on the frozen tundra of Heinz Field.
The first half was one of the most shocking, surreal experiences of my life. When the Steelers took a 24-0 lead on Sanchez's psuedo-fumble, all I felt in my body was numbness. Yes, the subarctic temperatures played a role in that, but it was the Jets complete disappearing act that left me with an empty feeling. The only remotely accurate comparison to what happened would be the Mets falling behind 7-0 in the first inning of the final game of the '07 Collapse Season. It was a terribly helpless feeling. There was an ear-drum-shattering level of noise around me---I could not hear a thing.
The Jets made a valiant comeback attempt. They did not quit. There were even a few moments in the second half when I thought they might win. I tried to convince myself that this was the Jets' Red Sox moment, trailing in the ninth inning of Game Four, the best closer in MLB history on the mound, down 3-0 in the series, that with all hope lost this would be the night the Jets flipped the script on 42 years of terrible luck and finally returned to the Super Bowl.
Well, that didn't happen. In my mind, the game ended when the Jets, down 24-10, failed to score on three plays from the one-inch line early in the fourth quarter. How they did not let Shonn Greene touch the ball on second, third and fourth-and-goal boggles my mind. Ground and Pound is a dirty myth. There's no truth to it. What frustrated me even more about that sequence was the now infamous "headset malfunction." I love Sanchez to death and believe he will win the Jets a Super Bowl, but why couldn't he call the plays himself there? You need one inch. Hand the ball off to your bowling ball of a running back. There's no imagination needed there. Would Roethlisberger have been jumping up and down in panic because his headset was broken? Of course not. He would have called his own number or given the ball to Mendenhall. Sanchez's inexperience greatly showed there.
As you know I promised a Minutes of my experience at the game, but having to re-live that experience right now would be much worse than getting kicked in the groin by thirty times by Nick Folk. So, here's a brief summary: (Deep breath) Fun car ride, lots of loud music, mooched free food from Jets team-sponsored tailgate, dad told me during pre-game call that he booked rent-a-car and hotel for Dallas, game starts, our section filled with Jets fans, hell begins, Steelers fans yell, "Super Bowl XLV? Can't Wait!", Jets string together a few big plays, forced to stand up because metal bleachers have robbed me of feeling in legs, fan behind me threatens Schottenheimer's life if he runs LT up the middle on a fake reverse again, beg defense for one more stop, Steelers get first down, taunted and jeered as we leave stadium. (Exhale).
Ugh. That was terrible. I want to forget it happened so badly. I wanted someone to bang on my door and wake me up from a terrible dream at 24-0. It never happened. In some ways it wasn't surprising. Other than last week's Patriots game, the match that drained the Jets of their energy and emotion, the team failed to play a complete game all season. That is why each of their 13 wins, the two Bills games aside, was decided in the fourth quarter. They had been good enough to fight back from adversity, to overcome a turnover here and there, to rebound from a sluggish start against lesser teams, but yesterday's mountain was too tall to climb. To come back from 24 points down, on the road, in Pittsburgh, in the AFC Championship Game, with an incompetent offensive coordinator is not a feasible task. As Rex so Rexly said, in honor of Things We Never Knew About the 2010 Jets, "We played a good half...We just never played a good game."
It was never their year.
So now we move on. But how? The Likely Lad has taken an interesting approach. He has been super optimistic. Here are my texts/e-mails/tweets from him. "We'll suck it up and start again next summer. RS forever!" "Talking about next Jets season already? hmmmm... CAAAAAN'T WAIT!!!" "That's the thing. The Jets are Rex and Sanchez and Mangold and Revis and Brick and Harris. The core is strong and very young. Even if you lose one receiver and one CB, the most important thing is to beef up D and O line. If they could ever get pressure on a qb, they'd go 19-0." Needless to say he is taking his queue from Rex, who said today, "We got to find a way to win the division. It isn't about just beating New England. Quite honestly, we did pretty good job at it...Our best is yet to come."
Myself on the other hand, I can't do that yet. It hurts too much right now. I'm fully aware it's only a football game, but it still stings. To lose something you care about and dedicate emotional, physical and monetary energy to, no matter how trivial it is, hurts. There will be a time in the near future when this all too familiar feeling passes. Pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona in a few weeks. Jose Reyes will tell us how this is the best he's ever felt. I'll believe him. The never-ending NHL and NBA seasons will reach their postseasons. I'll hopefully get lucky enough to stand on a warm Hicksville train platform waiting for a chain of silver cars to take me to an ice hockey game. The NFL Draft will (hopefully) happen. The Mets will give us some false hope in early June and have it peter out by mid-July. And that's when NFL training camps will (hopefully) open. I'll eat up every Rex soundbite and the whole process will begin again.
As for Rex Sanchez, we'll beat on, boats against the current, of course. Our posts may subside over the upcoming months, but the quality will remain. As many of you know, I will need to find a job in the near future, as my 21-year party comes to an end in late May. If I don't, well, I'll be writing this blog forever, which is a paradox of sorts, I suppose. Pumping out 1,000 word articles every night at 4 a.m. is an arduous task, but one I could not love any more. Hearing feedback from all of you, whether it be through comments or e-mails or Facebook messages is tremendous. I cannot possibly describe how good it makes The Likely Lad and I feel when you tell us we made you smile, laugh, or gave you an emotional Jets boost on a given day. That's why we love this blog. It's a communal experience.
And that's why we love sports. It creates an incredible bond among people who would never even make eye contact walking down the street. Leaving Heinz Field yesterday, my friends and I talked and listened to other Jets fans as we rode the escalators down to the parking lot. We took comfort in each other's disappointment. Not because misery loves company, but rather that we all knew how much the other person cared. None of us would have stood outside for four hours in single-degree temperatures if we didn't. I'll probably never see those people again, but that's OK.
New people come into your life every day. Whether it is a new baby cousin on the way, a loving girlfriend, or a fan you meet at a game, there's always someone new. And there's always people and things that you will lose. The 2010 Jets are gone, but the Jets organization will carry on. As a teary-eyed Rex said late Sunday night, "We're going to keep chasing that Super Bowl. We're gonna chase it until we get there." The dream of winning a championship in two weeks may be dead, but the dream of winning a Super Bowl will never die.
I love you all. Thank you for a great season. no comments
What began so many months ago in the heat of the New York summer ended tonight, in Pittsburgh, where the temperatures were in the single digits and the Jets lost, 24-19.
There are three things that stand out as I sit here, alone now in my apartment (like a good blogger.)
They were not ready to play - The first rule of road sports is to "weather the storm." The Jets could not. Pittsburgh had the ball first and marched down the field for a quick, 7-0 lead. On that drive, and more importantly, the three or four to follow, the Jets front seven made Rashard Mendenhall look like a faster Jerome Bettis. They could not tackle. They could not, yup, stop a nosebleed.
Still, it almost felt like a blessing being down just 17 with less than 2 minutes to go in the half. I think they should have sat on the ball. Instead, Schottenheimer decided to drop Sanchez back and right into the path of Ike Taylor. It was 24-0 and, if we're being honest, the game was over.
The offensive coordinator was not as good as his players - Fast forward to 24-10. A wickedly locked-in Sanchez, who was so much better than his offensive coordinator and a lot of his teammates, had marched the team down the to the 2-yard line. Run, pass, pass, and run. Shonn Greene got one touch, on first down. He got halfway there. He wouldn't touch the ball again. They didn't get the second yard.
That drive, by the way: 17 plays, 88 yards, 8:06 elapsed. You can never really know what's happening on the field, the words being spoken from OC to QB across the ether, but it seemed that Schottenheimer was not getting the plays in as fast as Sanchez and Co. were able to run them.
The Steelers were reeling. The Jets, they... they... they... were huddling.
Next year, in the Meadowlands - In this conference, with these quarterbacks, with these defenses, in this weather, and these home crowds, it's just too much to ask to win three in a row away from home. The Steelers had that extra jump in the first half. They hadn't just gone to Indy to beat Manning, then gone to New England for Brady. They had sat on the couch and healed. Last year, Tannenbaum put together a team to beat Peyton Manning. This offseason, whatever form it takes, needs to be about finding the defensive playmaker that pumps up a crowd that fuels a real home field advantage.
That's all for now. The season is over. Faulkner said that "given the choice between experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain."
We choose pain. Good for us.
Love and best wishes from your friends at Rex Sanchez.
(Check back for Buddy's full recap Monday afternoon.)
A moment of light in a tunnel of Jets darkness: A victorious trip to Green Bay---December 2006. Here's to another today.
I keep thinking about my computer. On the subway-- whoops missed my stop; On the bus-- that was fast; or in the backseat of a cab-- Sorry, I'll get out here actually. I just keep thinking about my computer. I think about clicking on the shortcut to the JetBlue web site. There are three direct flights from JFK to Austin every day. There's one at 8:05 pm. It's funny how you can know something for one reason and suddenly it becomes relevant for another.
I've been thinking about why we care so much. Well, probably more about why I care so much. Someone asked me a week ago. It was before the Patriots game; before the Jets walked into Foxborough and shocked the Patriots. It was a question in passing, from a colleague who had to somewhere to be.
"You're really not keeping all those newspapers?" (I have three on my desk: one from before the Colts game, one from after, and another from this Monday.)"Sure am. Until they lose at least."
And then the question.Days later and I'm still thinking. I like to make the joke-- and I call it a "joke" because it's true-- that I had as much say in deciding which team to support as I did in choosing the color of my hair. I was never going to be a Giants fan. They just didn't occur to me. That is, they weren't there.
The Jets have been there since I wore one-piece pajamas. They were my dad's construction and I imagine, even if don't remember, sitting next to him on a couch in Queens watching Kenny O'Brien throw the ball to the other team. We had a catch after a game one afternoon. Every time I caught the ball I'd yell, "Interception!"The Jets were something that occurred on certain Sundays. I was curious. We watched Raul Allegre boot the team into the 1991 playoffs. It was good. I got it. The first game I watched alone was just six days later. The 8-8 Jets went to the House of Pain and lost to the Houston Oilers, 17-10.
I started to go to the games. One time my dad's friend gave me a Mustard Pretzel "Combo" for a snack. I choked it up under a seat in Giants Stadium. Those cracked red seats.
I remember when they drafted Aaron Glenn. He was small, but a damn good player. And I was watching on TV when Marino made him look smaller, and not so good.
Less than 12 months after Leon Hess raided Foxborough, I was in the office with my dad. It was Sunday and we had tickets for the Rangers at night. We decided to watch the last game of the regular season in Manhattan, then take the subway to Madison Square Garden.The Jets were 9-6 and had only to beat Detroit, with Barry Sanders on the verge of 2,000 yards, to make the playoffs. We watched as Leon Johnson was intercepted in the end zone on a halfback pass. (If there had been replay in 1997, the call would have been overturned. The Detroit defender caught the ball but didn't stay in bounds.) The Jets lost and we went to the hockey game.
Those three years with Parcells were great fun. My dad and I would rush to the car after a home game to make sure we heard his press conference on the radio. We'd joke-- and I call it a "joke" because it's true-- that he was crankier after a win than a loss.The first of what will tomorrow be three AFC Championships games in 12 years was played a year later. I was a freshman in high school. School was out at 1:40 p.m. and I was at home, in bed, loading Playstation Madden (I was the Jets, they were whomever they would be that weekend) and listening to Mike and the Mad Dog twenty minutes later. There was a lot of Jets talk. Francesa was great friends with the head coach.
At 3:15 p.m. my brother, you know him, would get home and we'd play the video game together. I had a warm, green knit cap that I wore at all hours. He bought one, too. I remember it being the first thing I'd put on after a shower. I was 15 years old and still have all the newspapers.What do you really remember from high school? I think about being sad, smoking weed, and popping pimples. There's no record of that stuff, but it happened. On the walls in my room there are four or five seasons' worth of posters with the Jets' schedule, handwritten results next to each date. There's even this cutout newspaper photo of Vinny Testaverde galloping off the field after the Jets beat the Jaguars in the 1998 Divisional Playoffs. He has one finger up, Namath-style, and the headline reads: Victory 'Better than Sex' for Jets Faithful. I could imagine.
In the first game of the next season Vinny, who's still running on my wall today, tore his achilles' tendon. He was out for the year. Keyshawn cried after the game. Curtis Martin would never get so close again.
Parcells left after that season; Belichick was gone a few days later. There was Al Groh, briefly. Then came Herman Edwards. I remember thinking, "Well, if they're going to be mediocre (and, to be fair, they were usually a bit better), it's nice to do it with such a funny, good dude running the show."Previously a defensive backs coach from Tampa Bay, Edwards lasted longer than anyone expected. His 2004 team won a playoff game in San Diego, in overtime. Later that night, a water main broke in the house I shared with my school pals. There were two feet of toilet water in the living room. I didn't mind.
That team would get to within a field goal-- twice-- of the AFC title game. That, of course, happened in Pittsburgh. I was in College Park, Maryland. After the game I drove to the Chinese delivery place. It was a half-hour from my house, which still stunk of poo. My mom called me when I was driving.
"Are you OK?""Yea, just getting Chinese."
"OK, just checking. Call us later if you want."When my grandmother died, a little more than a year before, my mom managed a smile in a crowded car on the way to the cemetery. She said that all of us, being there, being together, made her happy.
Fans have no say in anything. We're passengers. We don't pick the coach or the quarterback or the who's going to play on Sunday. We don't play on Sunday. And still, we care. We welcome a new a coach and quarterback with a new blog.I said in my post before last week's game that the outcome of a football game could never affect how I feel about myself. And I stand by that, with one qualification. Winning a game, a game like the one at 6:30 tonight, will not make me feel like a better person or a more successful or able person. It will, though, frame what I remember about today and about this week. I wish I could remember all the sweet things the people I love say to me. It happens so much.
I want to celebrate tomorrow and drink champagne and book a flight to Texas. I want us all to share this. And then I realize, well yes, we already have.
(Editor's Note: The Jets are going to dominate today. The RexSanchez Mobile is leaving State College right now. We'll see you next in Arlington, Texas.)no comments
The CBS Mike Wallace haunts my dreams far more than the Steeler Mike Wallace.
For the second straight week our Five Keys to Victory single-handedly propelled the Jets to an upset playoff victory.
Fine. The post had absolutely no effect on anything. In fact, it probably hurt the Jets' chances in some odd, perverted way (I can be a Mush). Nonetheless, until they stop winning, I'm going to keep telling you what they must do to be victorious.
We were wayyyy more on target with last week's "keys" than versus the Colts. Let's review: Weather the storm: Check. Control the clock: Check (fourth quarter skewed t.o.p. stat). Don't change a thing on defense: Check. Nick Mangold stops Vince Wilfork: Eh. Do NOT trust Nick Folk: Check.
So there you go. I am a prophet. Whatever I say the Jets must do. It's that simple, right? Right? Right??????
(An abbreviated version of this post can be found at the Huffington Post thanks to our boys at Seat Geek, Huffington Post, and Blitzburghblog.com.)
1. Do NOT Trust Nick Folk.
Let's just get this one out of the way. Had the Jets needed a clutch kick last week this post would not be needed today. I'm sorry but the man is not trustworthy. Especially when you consider the weather, the stadium, and the stakes, there is absolutely no chance he boots the Jets into the Super Bowl. Let's do the four touchdowns thing again. (Note: I am so excited for the Nick Folk Revenge Game in Dallas in three weeks. He'll have his nervous breakdown on the 60-yard long scoreboard. That'll be fun.)
2. Stop Kissing the Steelers Collective Ass.
Where are my Jets? I haven't recognized a single player or coach this week. You really have nothing to say about the Steelers other than you love Mike Tomlin? Really? How about...their quarterback has been accused of sexual assault twice in five years! Hines Ward is arguably the dirtiest player in football! Their hands-of-stone cornerback said he will lay out your best wide receiver! You already beat them this season! It seems the Jets only talk trash when the opponent beat them by 42 points in the previous meeting. It's really quite odd. I'm worried the Jets respect for the Steelers will turn into fear if they get down 10-0. I want my Jets back.
I think this week's defensive gameplan will be far different than the last two. Roethlisberger is significantly more mobile than Manning or Brady, and his offensive line is in shambles. "But if they blitz too many guys Mike Wallace will burn them deep!" Thanks for bringing that up. I understand he's incredibly fast and had a nice regular season, but I cannot tell you how little Wallace scares me. One of the blowhards on Pro Football Talk wrote today that if the Jets assign Revis to Hines Ward, they are in effect admitting Darrelle is not capable of guarding him. The blowhard then concludes, "Football fans deserve Revis vs. Wallace, don't we?" Who the f*** is Mike Wallace?! Revis has shut down Wayne, A. Johnson, Moss, Owens, Megatron and Branch, but he can't keep up with Mike Wallace? Yeah. OK.
Anyway, yeah, blitz Ben. Whereas Brady had happy feet and danced and pranced when his receivers were blanketed, Ben will run around until they find open space. Coverage sacks are so last week.
4. So Much Depends on the Weather
I'm a little worried about Mistuh Californiar Cool playing in subarctic temperatures on Sunday night (it will be 8 degrees at kickoff). That's all I'm going to say. I don't want to freak him out in case he reads this.
5. Don't Muff This Up.
The Jets punt returners terrify me when they let the ball bounce on fair catches. If they simply cleared out that'd be one thing, but to hover over the ball like its a magnet is plain dumb. Their collective football IQ must be very low. I can see a nonsense fumble like that costing the Jets the game. Please let Jerricho field all punts. Also, Weatherford cannot keep booting the ball for touchbacks. Field position will be huge in this game.
One win away from the Super Bowl. This is it, folks. The Likely Lad will guide you home Saturday with what promises to be a motivational, traumatizing, confusing, upsetting, exciting post. He will likely pen our postgame column as I will be at Heinz Field to see our boys through. Expect my "live" diary sometime early Monday morning.
I love you all. Let's do this.
Jets 23, Steelers 17 (OT)
Marty and Brian in happier times...
Sunday's Jets-Patriots game had a shocking result. No, it wasn't that the Jets won. Instead, it was the superb playcalling of Brian Schottenheimer. Much-maligned in this space, Schotty called his best game of the season, spearheading a 28-point outburst against the 14-2 Patriots. Just as he did last year in San Diego, Schotty rose to the occasion and called a brilliant game. Outside of a reverse to McKnight on the game's second play and a quickly scrapped LT running the Wildcat set, Schotty's gameplan was sharp and effective.
What was the difference you ask? It's hard to say. Did he finally realize the best way to utilize his weapons? Did he stumble into a great gameplan? Was it some external force that goes beyond the football field and the locker room? Well, there's only one way to find out.
(Saturday night; Schotty sitting in his office)
(Staring at pictures of LT and Marty)
Those bastards. To think I gave Marty four of the best years of my career in San Diego! And for what? To have him undermine me before the biggest game of my coaching career? Well I've had it. I'm done appeasing him. It's time I became my own man.
(Pushes off desk; chair rolls back; shoots up from seat)
(Grabs playbook from bookshelf; starts flipping through pages)
LT behind Slauson? (Rips page out!) Never again! Screen to Jerricho on third-and-long? Not anymore! (Rip!) Shotgun snaps to Brad with an empty backfield? Mama ain't buyin' that one no maw! (Rip!) Triple reverse flea-flicker with Hunter as an eligible receiver? (Grabbing page) Ahhh we can keep that one!
(Holds ripped pages up to his face)
Wait, am I making a mistake? This whole season was predicated on us establishing LT in the run game. Did I fail?
(ESPN playing in the background)
(Schotty turns head to TV)
"...And the New York Jets and Brian Schottenheimer did a great job of establishing LT Saturday night in Indy. It really opened up the passing game for Mark Sanchez..."
Did you hear that? I did it! I'm a success! I established LT! No matter what Marty says, I AM A SUCCESS!
(Throws down ripped pages)
Where's that the stupid whiteboard LIFE gave me during that awkward photo shoot?
(Looks down, fingers on chin, ponders)
Ya know, that thing cost me at least two months of ass during sophomore year of college...
Ahhh snap out of it! What plays can we add? How about a short crossing pattern to Jerricho where we clear out Braylon and Santonio and leave Dustin there to block for him? I like it! Let's add a fade to the back corner of the end zone where Santonio makes all those great catches! Done! And in the run game let's run Shonn up the middle and give LT carries to the outside where he's good in space. Perfect! Man, I never realized how explosive our offense can be! I can't wait to see these plays in action!
(Fast-forward to Sunday night at 9 p.m. Jets beat Patriots 28-21)
We did it! We beat them! Hey guys, let's celebrate!
(Looks around locker room; spots LT)
Hey, who's LT on the phone with? The game just ended. Wait, wait, oh, oh, ohhh, ohhh noooo he isn't!
(Runs over to LT)
Who is that LT?
"It's no one!" (LT whispers into phone) "I gotta go..."
(Schotty grabs phone)
BS: Hello? Who is this? Marty?
Marty: Yes, son. Hi, it's me. I was just calling LT to say congrats on finally beating the Pats!
BS: Why didn't you call me first? We used to be real pals! But now you've betrayed me! I'll never forgive you!
Marty: Son, this is the first time I've spoken to him since last week. I promise!
BS: That's not what Mom told me. She said you've been texting him and giggling like a little girl all week!
Marty: Oh, she told you that? I...I...
BS: Stop! There's nothing else to say! You've burned all your bridges back to me! If we win the Super Bowl, I'm not giving you the ring anymore!
Marty: No, son, please!
BS: I'm giving it to...(searches locker room)...Hey, Slaus! Your dad want an extra ring if we go all the way?
Slauson: I guess, I mean...
BS: See, Marty! Ya hear that? Slauson's dad is getting my ring! He's a real father figure!
Slauson: Actually, he'd have no interest in it, Brian.
(Schotty puts phone to chest)
Will you shut up over there!
Marty: It's OK, son. If you guys win the Super Bowl, I'll get my ring.
BS: Oh yeah? How?
Marty: LT promised me his.
Marty: (Evil laugh)
Marty: (Evil laugh escalating)
(Schotty looks to LT)
BS: You're giving Marty your ring if we win the Super Bowl?
(Evil laugh reaches fever pitch)
LT: I'm sorry, Brian. I didn't mean...
(Schotty turns head to side, closes eyes, puts hand out in front of LT's face)
BS: Say no more! He's all yours! (extends phone to LT) I hope he makes you happy!
(Runs into office; releases audible cry; slams door shut) no comments
Today's interview is with newspaper mogul Brandt Gelman of Penn State's Daily Collegian. A barbarian sport expert, the rugby-wrestling aficionado hails from the town of Black and Yellow, a city whose people have enough northeast influence not to qualify them as hicks, but enough Rust Belt residue to lower their collective sports IQ. Sadly, Gelman's feelings about the Steelers and Sunday's AFC Championship Game are representative of Steelers Nation.
RS: A bigger buffoon: Ben Roethlisberger or Rex Ryan? Be objective, if possible.
BG: This is an interesting question. I think Ben and Rex are equally great buffoons, but on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Simply put, Ben can’t help himself. He self-admittedly fell into the “Big Ben” persona and his natural “Yinzer” came out. I give Roethlisberger too much slack due to the happiness he has brought me on the football field, but he is definitely a big-time buffoon.
Rex Ryan is a calculated buffoon. The Jets are one of the rare teams that can actually back up their talk. There is no denying the swag Ryan has infused into this team; Bart Scott's postgame interview was somewhat terrifying. But at the same time, people take what Ryan says with a grain of salt and in reality no one is really listening to all of his bantering. Which, at least until he wins a super bowl, makes him look like a buffoon as well.
RS: I love Mike Tomlin. Rex loves Mike Tomlin. Why do you?
BG: Tomlin brings ”coolness” to the team. His coaching style allows the players to have just as much fun as Ryan’s, but it’s much more subtle. In Pittsburgh it’s all about winning and Tomlin has won the AFC North three of the last four years including a Super Bowl victory. It's not hard to love having him as a coach.
RS: Why are you not taking the Jets seriously? Did you not see them strike down your team's Kryptonite last week in New England? How ignorant are Steelers fans?
BG: I don’t know of anyone in Pittsburgh who is taking the Jets lightly. You just mistake our confidence of playing at home game as cockiness. Getting Troy and Heath Miller back gives Steeler fans even more reasons to believe.
Sanchez’s record in the playoffs, and obviously on the road, are very impressive, but this game will be a huge test for him; like Bart Scott said, “New England couldn’t stop a nose bleed.” You put it well in that the Patriots are our Kryptonite, and to not have to play in New England gives a sigh of relief to all Steeler fans. I also think there is a lot of mutual respect between the teams, so I don’t think either team is taking its opponent lightly.
RS: Let's expand on the ignorance of Pittsburgh sports fans. You are front-runners. No one cared about the Steelers from 1933 until 1969. It was a Pirates town because they were winning. No one cared about the Penguins until you drafted Mario. Once his prime faded into the sunset your team came within a Sidney Crosby ping pong ball of moving to Kansas City (the Penguins were dead last in attendance the season before Sid arrived and had no new arena in place). And the Pirates have come in the bottom five in MLB attendance every season since 2003.
BG: This question is just a personal attack on Pittsburgh sports fans in general, and I find it funny. I have met countless New York fans that choose whichever baseball, football, or hockey team in New York that is having the best season. People are Mets fans until they fail to make the playoffs, and then they bring out the Yankee fitted and rep them harder than anyone. I believe that is one of the most ignorant things any sports fan can do (other than wanting to win fantasy football more than have their own team with a championship).
RS: I've read in many places that Mike Wallace is going to light up Darrelle Revis. Please tell me you're not drinking this Kool-Aid.
BG: This is an easy answer: No I’m not sipping any of that Kool-Aid. Darrelle Revis is a special player, and I saw him play in person many times when he was stud for the University of Pittsburgh. His performance on Reggie Wayne was masterful, and I don’t look for Wallace to have a stand out game.
RS: How important is it for Ben to have more Super Bowl rings than rapes? He has two apiece right now.
BG: I think realistically it will be four Super Bowls to two alleged rapes. I don’t think there will be any more rape charges, and after getting another ring this year it seems very possible.
My question for you guys is how many Super Bowls will Rothlisberger have to win before people can say he’s one of the best. I may be fanatical in my love for Roethlisberger as a quarterback, but I think he's right on the cusp of historic greatness.
RS: If at 10 o'clock on Sunday night Rex Ryan is fat-guy-running into the tunnel of Heinz Field with the Lamar Hunt trophy in his hand, what emotions are going to be running through your body?
BG: First of all I saw Rex Ryan run down the sideline to congratulate the team last week and I don’t think he’s making it all the way to the tunnel. But in reality, I do not see how the Jets are going to win this game.
RS: Beyond the fact your team is named the "Pittsburgh Steelers," why will they win Sunday's game? Please answer with your brain and not your weiner.
BG: I do no think the Jets are going to get a run game going against the Steelers, and with Troy back in the equation I think he will come up with a big interception to swing this game. Conversely, I think Mendenhall will find some room, and if the Steeler rookie receivers continue to shine brightly, Pittsburgh can make enough splash plays to win this one.
RS: Final score...
BG: Steelers 27, Jets 17
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. no comments
I know, Braylon. Just two more wins. I can't believe it either.
Two weeks ago we said if the Jets were to complete this seemingly impossible playoff run, they would have to exorcise all their demons. That meant beating the three teams who had most recently exited them from the playoffs, all of whom were quarterbacked by one of the best to ever play the position.
Now, on the night of Jan. 16, 2010, the New York Jets, the New York m***erf***ing Jets(!!!!) are two wins away from football immortality.
A week after their defense stymied Peyton Manning, the Jets battered, bruised and confused the immortal Tom Brady. It was one of the most dominating defensive performances in team history, not necessarily in terms of points and yards allowed, but the physical punishment they unleashed on the Patriots offense. The Jets had a postseason, franchise-best five sacks, nearly shattering Tom Brady's elbow and knocking the Patriot decal off the helmets of Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead.
And then there was the offense. Once said to be a "team built for now, but a quarterback built for later," Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady for the second time this season, throwing for 194 yards and three touchdowns, including countless clutch throws when the team needed it the most. None more important than a 58-yard completion to Jerricho Cotchery following New England's late-third quarter touchdown.
The game MVP, and there was a lot of competition, undoubtedly goes to the longest tenured Jet, defensive end Shaun Ellis. In a legendary playoff performance, the 11-year veteran recorded two sacks, two QB hits, and two tackles for a loss. It was only fitting that he and Cotchery (and Bryan Thomas), the lone Jets that played in the Jets traumatic playoff loss to the Steelers in '04, were the players to lead them back to Yinzburgh.
(Fun Fact of the Day: Shaun Ellis's full name is MeShaunda Pizarrur Ellis. Shouldn't this be common knowledge?)
It was beautiful to see the Jets back up all their trash talk. I am downright giddy to hear Francesa spin this Jets win. If he can---with a straight face---say the Jets weaseled or lucked their way into a win he should be psychologically evaluated. I cannot wait for 1:05 p.m. tomorrow. It will also be interesting to see how Rex and Co. play it this week in the press. More people will predict them to win, the Jets have already beaten the Steelers, and there is no real bad blood between the teams...yet. Please, Random Steelers Player, say something inflammatory on a conference call tomorrow!
My Sunday night favorite for "They wanted us, now they get us!" motivator is James Farrior chanting "J-E-T-S" to Scott Hanson of the NFL Network before Sunday's game, with the obvious implication being the Steelers fear the Patriots more than the Jets.
I want to write more but I'm still far too emotional to discuss my Super Bowl dreams with y'all. We'll have plenty of time to do that this week.
Let's do the grades for now.
A perfect effort by the franchise quarterback in the organization's greatest win in 42 years. Sanchez, other than a few early overthrows, played a flawless game, throwing three touchdowns, committing no turnovers and making every late-game throw he needed to make.
Running Backs: A-
Greene and LT combined for 27 carries for 119 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown. It wasn't the Ground and Pound of last week, but it was still very effective. Their biggest test yet will come next week versus Pittsburgh's superb run-D.
Wide Receivers: A+
A dominating performance by the Flight Boys who combined for 10 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Santonio's touchdown catch was one of the most clutch, sensational catches you will ever see, one that will be a first-ballot induction into the 'Tone Time Hall of Fame. Braylon and Cotchery also had spectacular games, with Edward's first catch setting up an LT touchdown and his second reception putting the Jets up 14-3.
Tight Ends: B
A quiet day for Keller and of course Hartsock dropped the one pass intended for him. Great blocking, though.
Offensive Line: A+
Dominating. Sanchez was barely touched (no sacks, no QB hits) and they did a great job in the ground game. I actually caught myself saying, "Great block, Slaus!" at least four times today. This really is our year!
Defensive Line: A+
A stalwart effort by Pouha (sack, tackle for loss) and DeVito, and of course the career-defining performance by Shaun Ellis, one to go down in Jets lore if they win their next two games.
Nothing special but a nice game from the group. Jason Taylor looked very old on numerous plays and overall they had a hard time guarding the Pats' tight ends, but their tackling was crisp and they limited big plays on the ground. Plus, I'm still not sure how Calvin Pace's sack didn't break Brady's elbow.
A great game by this unit as Revis was his usual brilliant self, Cromartie was terrific, Pool made the plays he needed to, and Eric Smith set a record for most Great Plays Accidentally Made By Below-Average Player.
Special Teams: D-
ATROCIOUS! Had Cro not recovered the first onside kick they would have got an F. Thank the lord Folk only had to attempt one field goal. Terrible performance by Weatherford, too.
An absolutely brilliant job by Rex-Pettine-Schotty. Rex and Pettine baffled Brady with their excellent pass coverage schemes. Ever since Rex got over his blitzing fetish the Jets defense has been dominating. As for Schotty, he actually called a beautiful game Sunday. That is of course discounting an end-around to Joe McKnight on the game's second play---an all-time classic. Thankfully he gave up on the Wildcat after LT fumbled his first snap.
I'm already nervous for next week. I'm over today. That's a good thing, though. The Jets are only halfway up that Championship Mountain, as hard as that may seem to believe. I'd be lying if I said it's only going to get easier, but after beating Manning and Brady on back-to-back weeks on the road, it's hard to believe the Jets will lose another game this season.
The Likely Lad won. He lost control of his bladder at 11:34 a.m. It took me until five past noon.
Anyway, before we begin the biggest Jets game in 42 years, I have a few things I want to say.
-I love this team. Win or lose this has been a tremendously fun season. The game in Cleveland was the best regular season sporting event I have ever attended. I'll never forget it.
-I love Rex Ryan. Even if the Jets lose by 30 today my feelings won't change. He has been the head coach for two seasons and in both campaigns he has made the playoffs and won in the playoffs. I know this is a win-now team but I do not believe (in general preparation) there is anything Rex could have done better. I love having him as my coach.
-I love Mark Sanchez. For all his faults, and he has his share, I feel extremely confident having him as my quarterback going forward. He has huge cajones in the big spot and there is no substitution for that at the quarterback position.
-I love having a bathroom close to my room. I've been nervous pooing all day.
-I love the thought of winning today's game. I've actually dreamed about it throughout the week. In one dream there were somehow three teams (including the Jets) playing in the AFC Championship Game. I knew something fishy was going on but I went along with it. The Jets can beat the Patriots and Steelers, but not at the same time.
-I love Jets-Patriots games. They remind me why I love sports. I should not feel nervous and physically ill about a sporting event but I do right now. I'm paralyzed with fear of Nick Folk missing a game-winning extra point and the Jets losing in overtime. Please, Sports Gods. Don't let that happen.
-I love Brian Schottenheimer. It comforts me knowing you can be terrible at your job and still make lots and lots of money.
-I (am going to) love the feeling going through my body at 8 p.m. tonight. I love buying tickets on StubHub. I'll see you next Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Jets 27, Patriots 23 no comments
The highly revered "Patriot Way" includes: Adultery, Spying, and Cheating...
It's Saturday and my head is still attached to my neck, which is still attached my body, which still has its arms, with which I did not strangle myself or anyone else. So it's been a pretty good week.
Good, but difficult. I struggle to recall a more obnoxious sports news cycle than the one that will end, thank sweet Touchdown Jesus, with kickoff tomorrow afternoon at Foxborough. Rex Ryan, Antonio Cromartie, Wes Welker, Tom Brady, Darth Belichick, and every tabloid hack in a 300 mile radius have all sprayed their weight in spittle and ink this week. (Except for Manish Mehta at the NY Daily News, the only reason to read a sports page in NYC.)
Even the guy The New Yorker pays to write about Parisian doodads saw fit to inform us that he, too, was happy when the Jets won last Sunday. And that getting separation in the passing game is such a footbally concept that it requires quotation. He's a "Peytonophile," too, something that, as a dedicated reader of the magazine, makes me like myself even less.
You know this week has been unique when, three paragraphs into my red-faced tantrum about the sports media, there's been no mention of ESPN.
In fact, ESPN has been your one-stop shop for sanity in all things AFC Divisional game. (Just as long as you didn't stray on to "ESPN NY," where cranky Rich Cimini spent a week copying and pasting Brady into where he'd written Manning the week before, then slapping together a modified lede introducing the Colts, no, Patriots game as the one that would define Rex Ryan's life and everlasting soul.)
Wes Welker would've written sole there and thought it was hilarious.
Most everyone's a comedian this week; and like most comedians, most everyone is not funny.
The rest are dramatists; and like most dramatists, the rest are purple with their prose and yellow with their storylines.
So without further whinging, let's do a Five Things I Never Knew About the 2010 Jets: Mythbustin' Edition!
Myth: The Jets chattering, the coach's in particular, will make the Patriots mad. And you don't want to the play the Patriots when they're mad because it makes them a more difficult team to beat.
Fact: The Patriots are always a very good team and always very difficult to beat. If they've conjured up any anger surplus to what usually precedes a playoff game, then they're just as full of it as the Jets. Seriously, if Tom Brady won every game during which someone on the other team called him an "asshole," he'd be about 170-0.
Myth: Gary Myers's father (or mother) is a duck.
Fact: Gary Myers's father (or mother) is a duck.
Myth: The Jets have no class. The Patriot Way should be taught in elementary school.
Fact: The Jets have very little class. The Patriots are just as bad, though creepier about it. Case and point: there has been only one mention of a player or coach's personal life this week. That came courtesy of Wes Welker, who provided us with a one-eleventh funny ("good little foot soldiers" was pretty good, I must admit) monologue mocking Rex Ryan's foot fetish. If that was Welker's putting the Patriot Way into practice, I suppose the Classless Jets missed their mark in not discussing Bill Belichick's home-wrecking, adulterous affair. The one he had with his secretary. Yup, he slept with his employee. Tell your kids.
Oh, and the Patriots cheated at least part of their way to three Super Bowls. That happened.
Myth: Because Antonio Cromartie told the duck's son that he really disliked Tom Brady, the Patriots will now pick on Cromartie all day, just like they did with that schnook from Pittsburgh a few years ago.
Fact: That schnook's name is Anthony Smith and he's currently not playing for his fourth team in five years. Though Cromartie is no Revis, he's also no Anthony Smith. Should the Patriots decide to take aim at Cromartie, it will be because they see a weakness in his game. Like how he can't cover inside routes. Or that he can't/won't tackle. Ol' Cro' might even end up like Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, run over by a cherry-picking Pats guard, but he will not be burned because of what he said. If New England challenges the big fella for that reason alone, they're not as smart as we all think.
Myth: If the Jets lose it will be a great embarrassment to all of their fans and supporters. The very fate of the Rex Ryan regime hinges on the outcome.
Fact: I really want the Jets to win this game. Really really. I can't stand the Patriots and their fans. But if the Jets do win, I'll say... nothing. Maybe "good game," but being that I'm not playing tomorrow even that would seem a bit weird. Either way, a Jets loss would not, and has never, caused me to be embarrassed. Sad, yes. Depressed, many times over. But not embarrassed. I have no control over what happens tomorrow, just like the Pats fan. Neither fan base, win or lose, has cause to feel that the outcome somehow speaks to their collective personality. We're just rooting for different laundry. (courtesy: Jerry Seinfeld)
Prediction: Pats 30, Jets 17. New York will trail 23-17 with 3:44 to play. On a 3rd and 7 from the Pats 23, Schotty will run a delay to LT. On 4th and 6 from the Pats 22, Rex will trot out Folk-face. After the miss, Brady will lead the Pats down the field for the clinching TD and a 2-point conversion to make it a clear two-touchdown lead.
Or maybe the Jets win. For that, however, I cannot fashion a plot.