ARE THE JETS REALLY ONE GAME AWAY FROM THE UNTHINKABLE?
Posted by Andrew Roman on January 18, 2010
I really ought to say something about yesterday’s New York Jets upset victory over the high-powered San Diego Chargers. I ought to be able to channel over thirty years of frustration and disappointment into a paragraph or two of pure literary euphoria. Yesterday’s 17-14 victory over a team that many predicted would eviscerate the upstart Jets is surely enough to warrant a mention, one would think. As a lifelong Jets fan, it seems not only appropriate, but necessary.
I’m not an effective sports commentator by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ll try.
Admittedly, like many “realists,” I thought the Jets mini miracle run would come to a decisive end in San Diego against an explosive Chargers team that many felt was Super Bowl-bound (including me). Naturally, I rooted my gluteus off for my Jets, wearing my Joe Namath throwback, screaming, cheering, fist-pumping, throwing my arms in the air, hurling my hat at the television on numerous occassions, praying for a miracle. I knocked over the chips, spilled my drink, paced the living-room during commercial breaks and burned more calories than I could have had I gone to the gym and ran the treadmill for five hours. The Chargers, after all, are a great team, exciting to watch, worthy of all the accolades they received this year. I don’t think that’s overstating it. They won eleven games in a row going into yesterday’s game and hadn’t scored less than twenty points in a game all season.
But those are just statistics, and there’s a reason why they play the games. Yesterday’s stunning upset of the AFC’s number two seed by a New York Jets team that boasts the league’s top running attack and top defense is definitely one for the scrapbook. It was one of the most memorable victories I can remember for this team; and while I’m not old enough to recall the Jets historic upset over the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl III, I am old enough to be one of the millions of kids who worshipped at the altar of Joe Namath.
This was big.
Indeed, I remember the Jets victory over the Raiders in January, 1983 that won them a slot in the AFC Championship game against the dreaded Dolphins (a game they lost 14-0 in the heart-shattering “A. J. Duhe” game). Yesterday’s victory is certainly on par with that one.
I remember the 1998 Jets – a team I was sure was going all the way. After a 2-3 start that year, they won ten out of their last eleven contests, snagging the AFC East. They beat Jacksonville in the divisional round of the playoffs and then led the AFC Championship Game over Denver 10-0 at the half. (It was all down hill from there).
I remember the Jets beating these same San Diego Chargers in the 2004 Wild Card round when Nate Kaeding missed a 40-yard field goal in overtime, enabling the Jets to march down the field and win the game – the same Nate Kaeding who missed three field goals yesterday after making sixty-nine consecutive kicks from 40 yards or less. (The Jets went on to lose to the Steelers in overtime the following week, missing two field goals at the end of regulation that would have brought them to the AFC Championship game).
Yesterday’s win transformed the Jets from a team playing with “house money” to one worthy enough to be mentioned with the league’s big boys. They didn’t have anything handed to them, they didn’t “back in” because of a San Diego collapse, and they didn’t “luck out.” This was no fluke. It’s true that San Diego penalized themselves to death with a cavalcade of false start penalties, personal foul infractions, and sloppy play. It’s true that Phil Rivers, the great San Diego quarterback, seemed off-rhythm all game. It’s true that the Chargers, for some unknown reason, decided to play a more conservative game, attempting to establish a nonexistent running game.
But it was the Jets who, after being thoroughly outplayed in first half, and being down by only a touchdown at halftime, saw their top-rated defense take over. The Chargers, who had every advantage in the world going into this game, allowed the Jets to stick around long enough to seize control. Once the Jets grabbed it, they never gave it back. They kept Rivers off-balance, and never wavered from their pound-the-rock, ground-attack game plan. They didn’t panic. They stuck to what got them there.
They were patient. They were good. And yes, I was shocked.
They went into San Diego and defied the odds, beating them on their own turf, in front of a fantastically enthusaistic crowd convinced that this was the Chargers’ year. Unfortunately for long-suffering Chargers fans, it wasn’t. Fortunately, for long-suffering Jets fans, the team is on the brink of the impossible.
My voice is hoarse from all the shouting. I even got food on my game jersey.
It was an amazing game and an impressive victory that I still cannot comprehend.
I promise you, I intend to enjoy this week of celebration, pontification, evaluation and anticipation leading up to the AFC Championship Game next Sunday. The Jets will face their tallest order yet when they face the mighty Indianapolis Colts – the number one seed in the AFC.
The Colts are that good.
The Jets can certainly thank the Indianapolis Colts for the opportunity to play them next week. It was the Colts’ generous Christmas gift to the Jets in game 15 that kept the Jets alive for an unlikely playoff spot – namely “laying down” for the Jets by resting almost all of their starters in the third quarter, including the incomperable Peyton Manning, and affording the Jets the opportunity to post a win. The Colts only did it to rest their core and avoid needless injuries, having already clinched a playoff berth. (It didn’t hurt that the fates were on the side of the Jets when every team that needed to lose that week did).
But this is no longer “house money.”
Yes, this is unquestionably the most unlikely of playoff runs. It is as unexpected as any post-season push I can remember – even the amazing New York Giants run of two years ago. I wouldn’t have bet anything on God’s green earth that the Jets would be playing in the AFC Championship Game, nor would anyone else with a working brain.
But they are.
I don’t care that they were a camel’s eyelash from being eliminated from playoff contention after their embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Game 14. I don’t care that the Indianapolis Colts “laid down” for the Jets in Game 15 by resting all their starters, allowing the Jets to beat them. I couldn’t care less that the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t play “all out” in Game 16, enabling the Jets to destroy them.
None of that matters now.
They’ve beaten Cincinnati and San Diego on the road thus far in the playoffs. Sixty minutes of football stand between them and the unthinkable – Super Bowl XLIV.
So, from this Jets fan to the mighty, mighty Colts … thank you for the opportunity. I mean that.
The real question is … Can the Jets actually beat the Colts in Indianapolis?
The answer … Damn right they can.