The New York Jets outscored the Indianapolis Colts 17-9 in the second half tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, as they came from behind three times to win their Wild Card battle and set up a third meeting of the year with the New England Patriots next week. Mark Sanchez came up big on the final drive that began with only 53 seconds left in the game, completing three key passes to set up Nick Folk’s game winning, 32-yard field goal. The Jets edged the Colts by a point, 17-16.
The first half was ugly for both teams. The only highlight was a 57 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon against double coverage. The play succeeded when Cromartie got beaten to the inside and Brodney Pool was late to help. The Jets should have scored fourteen points in the two quarters but Mark Sanchez was wild high all night, other than on the last drive, and he repeatedly overthrew wide open receivers. It could be that he was overcompensating for the injured shoulder. For whatever reason, though, his accuracy, never his strong suit, was far off tonight. The Jets best scoring opportunity came, as so often happens this season, in the last two minutes of the first half, but the opportunity was squandered when Sanchez picked up an open Dustin Keller too late, but threw it anyway. The ball was intercepted on the goal line by Tryon and run back for 23 yards to effectively end the first half with the Jets shut out, yet again.
Once the second half began, though, the Jets’ offense had a different level of commitment using a variety of angles and runs to impose their will on the smallish Indy defense. With the offensive line leading the way, they drove down the field on ten plays, running the ball eight times and covering 63 yards for the touchdown pounded in by LaDainian Tomlinson. The drive used up nearly six minutes, a wise strategy against Peyton Manning. After the Colts answered with a field goal to make it 10-7, the Jets’ offense once again kicked into ground and pound mode for seventeen plays and a go-ahead touchdown. The drive would consume nearly ten minutes more. The Colts would again answer, but with a field goal to make it 14-13 Jets.
So, at 4:37 to go in the game, the Jets had the ball and the lead. But, the offense became too conservative and predictable on the next drive which ended with more than two minutes to go even after a roughing call extended the Jets’ possession for three more plays. Never one to miss an opportunity, Manning drove his team into field goal range once again, and Vinateri punched it through from fifty. The Jets would have to come from behind with 53 seconds to go.
Cromartie, with Brad Smith nursing a pulled groin, came up big on the ensuing kickoff running it smartly to the Jets’ 45 yard line. Then, Sanchez went to work even calling the last play himself. Once he had completed a nice sideline route to Braylon Edwards, Folk made the game-winning field goal as time ran out.
The defense played brilliantly, for the entire game, going against their own tendencies and choosing to play mostly Cover-1 and Cover-2. They passed upthe blitz on virtually every play. Revis shut down Reggie Wayne from the first play to the last, forcing Manning to hit his other receivers, which he could not do often enough to make the difference. The defensive line, too, played superbly paced by Mike DeVito who has become the heir apparent to Kris Jenkins at tackle.
All in all, the Jets shut down the Indy offense for much of the game limiting them to a single touchdown—not bad for a defense that gave up nearly eighty points in two recent games. Indy could never get the running game going and the Jets’ containment strategy eliminated the big play almost completely.
Now, comes the big test redux. New England at Foxboro. Let’s hope the game is more like the first one than the second. Meanwhile, Rex Gloriosi!