NFL Playoffs: Jets 28, Patriots 21
By Howard Ulman
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ó So the Jets werenít all talk ó trash talk ó after all.
Now Rex Ryanís rowdy bunch is headed to its second straight AFC championship game after New York backed up its coachís boasts with a 28-21 win Sunday over the New England Patriots ó the team with the best record in the NFL.
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes and and the Jets sacked Tom Brady five times in the most-hyped of the weekendís four postseason games following a week of verbal potshots from both teams.
New York led its fierce rival 14-3 at halftime before Bradyís 2-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler and Sammy Morrisí run for a 2-point conversion made it 14-11 late in the third quarter. But Sanchez came right back with a 7-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes and New York finished the upset with Shonn Greeneís 16-yard touchdown run.
The Jets (13-5) kept Ryanís prediction of a Super Bowl appearance alive. The Patriots (14-3) lost their third straight postseason game.
ěMaybe everybody else never believed, but we believed,î Ryan said. ěWeíre moving on. Same old Jets, back to the AFC championship. The only difference is this time we plan on winning.î
They lost last season to Indianapolis 30-17, but now have another chance for their first Super Bowl berth since 1969 when another loudmouth, ěBroadway Joeî Namath, backed up his guarantee with a 16-9 win over the Baltimore Colts.
Ryan has said many times that the Jets are a Super Bowl-caliber team, and has irritated fans, opposing players and media with his bold remarks. Last week he said the game was a contest between him and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Then, after Antonio Cromartie called Brady an expletive on Tuesday, Ryan said he wouldnít punish his cornerback.
The ultra-serious Belichick wasnít as kind to Wes Welker.
The wide receiver was benched for the Patriots first series for subtle remarks apparently directed at Ryan. Welker made several references to feet in his news conference Thursday, interpreted by some as a dig at recent foot-fetish reports involving Ryan.
When the game ended, Belichick walked slowly to midfield where he met Ryan, patted his conqueror on the back with his left hand and shared some words.
ěWe just didnít do enough things well today,î Belichick said. ěItís obvious.î
Sanchez completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and touchdowns to LaDainian Tomlinson, Braylon Edwards and Holmes. Brady, who played poorly for his second straight postseason game, was 29-for-45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
ěI donít even know what to say right now,î Tomlinson said. ěWhat an unbelievable win for our team.î
After Greene scored the Jets last touchdown, he put the ball on the ground like a pillow and rested his head on it. A quiet climax to a loud week.
Now Sanchez gets a chance to beat one of the NFLís best quarterbacks for the third straight week when he faces Ben Roethslisberger after knocking off Peyton Manning, who won the NFLís last two MVP awards and Brady, who is a favorite to win his second in four years.
ěHeís just now getting better and better and better,î Ryan said.
The Steelers have been installed as 3-point favorites.
In one of their worst halves of the season, the Patriots looked more like the ragged group that went 5-11 in Belichickís first season in 2000 than the steamrolling machine that led the NFL this season with a 14-2 record and 32.4 points per game.
In the first two quarters, Brady absorbed three sacks and was sent scrambling at least that many times. He misfired on an interception on his first series after finishing the season with a league-record streak of 335 passes without a pick.
Then on the Patriots fifth possession, trailing just 7-3, they botched a fake punt attempt. Patrick Chung took the short snap and fumbled. He got the ball back but all escape routes closed quickly. He was tackled at the Patriots 37 with 1:06 remaining.
Plenty of time for Sanchez.
Just one week earlier, Indianapolis had taken a 16-14 lead with 53 seconds left on Adam Vinatieriís 50-yard field goal.