The Worst Part Of This NFL Playoff Weekend Is That We’ll Have To Listen To The Jets Talk About How Great They Are For Another Seven Days
I don’t have any idea what happened to New England today against the Jets. It’s pretty obvious that the Patriots and Bill Belichick had no idea either.
I’ve picked against the Jets two weeks in a row, not because I have any distaste for the franchise or anything — as a Bears fan, I save my venom for the hated Packers, though I won’t let that cloud my judgment when it comes to picking the upcoming NFC Title Game — but only because I think they’ve been overrated all season, and that they’re more bluster than actual results on the field. That said, I have to begrudgingly give them credit for their victory against New England in their 2nd round playoff game — unlike last week, the Jets were the better team on the field for all four quarters at Gillette Stadium. Now as to how that happened, it’s not quite that simple.
The MVP of the game for New York was their quarterback Mark Sanchez, who grew up in a hurry with a huge performance against the Pats. Sanchez threw for 194 yards and three touchdowns — but most importantly, he avoided turning the ball over. That’s something that can’t be said for the Patriots, who after being the undisputed leader in the NFL this season in holding onto the ball, turned it over on a crucial pick in Jets territory in the first quarter, the first interception thrown by quarterback Tom Brady since October. And there was arguably the turning point of the entire game, a botched fake punt at the close of the first half (that might as well have been a turnover) that set the Jets up for their second touchdown of the game, a score that put them up 14-3 at the half.
New York’s defensive effort was spectacular as well, holding the Patriots in check for most of the day and keeping New England’s vaunted offense from even advancing past midfield for nearly two quarters. Brady was under pressure all game, and nothing ever seemed to be available for him — by the time the Pats finally started to move the ball with some consistency late in the 3rd quarter, finally scoring to cut the New York lead to four points, it was too little, too late — especially since the Jets were able to immediately answer with a touchdown of their own, the Sanchez TD pass to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone reminiscent of the wide receiver’s game-winner in the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals (though the replay looked like he was out-of-bounds — his elbow hitting on the white after only one knee had hit in-bounds, but the play wasn’t reviewed). Shonn Greene’s journey into the end zone in the final two minutes to put the final score at 28-21 was simply icing on the Jets cake (the score was closer than it should have been thanks to a last-second touchdown by New England).
As the game progressed, I thought for a minute that I was watching a repeat of a Pats performance against another New York team that they should have beaten but didn’t — their loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl that ended their unbeaten season. That was another game in which they looked flat and out-of-tune, and just like that season, their otherwise tremendous 2010 season ends in a mammoth disappointment. The Jets will march on to Heinz Field and a rematch against the Steelers, who they beat in Week 15. My only hope is that we’re spared another week of the histrionics the Jets have often engaged in — which isn’t a futile wish, since I doubt we’ll see the level of hostility that the Jets and Pats have for one another to draw out all of the trash-talking.
All in all, though, even with the Pats flame-out it wasn’t a bad week for my picks: I ended up 3-1 overall picking winners (2-2 against the spread) — and I didn’t jinx the Bears chances by picking them to win against Seattle. I’ll take that and move up happily to the biggest week of football for this Chicago fan since the Colts beat the Bears back in Super Bowl XLI. And yes — I’ll be picking against the Jets again. There’s no way they beat two better teams in the Pats and the Steelers back-to-back on the road — though frankly, they’ve already advanced further than I would have expected them to. So in a postseason where under .500 teams are beating Super Bowl champions and both number one seeds lose at home, I’d say nothing should be expected.
I’ll be back late tomorrow with my thoughts on the other three playoff games from the weekend.