2009 AFC Championship Game -Jets at Colts
The 30-17 loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game was difficult for members of the Jets defense to immediately reflect upon as they fell short of their ultimate goal for this season.
"Through everything we've been through, the ups and downs, it's been a great ride for us," said cornerback Darrelle Revis. "We wanted to get to the Super Bowl, the 'promised land,' but it didn't happen. The one thing is we're a young team right now. For us to experience this is very great. We can learn from this and move forward and be able to build off the pieces we need to get to the Super Bowl."
The Jets defense played a solid first 28 minutes against Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning came out and hit Reggie Wayne for the first down on the first play from scrimmage but the Green & White D tightened up with a PD by Jim Leonhard and a David Harris nickel blitz sack of No. 18 to force a punt.
Harris would get his second sack on the first play of the next drive and CB Donald Strickland, who played a big role while he was in the game, broke up a third-down pass to Dallas Clark, again forcing a punt. Manning is always hopping around on his feet as he scans the field for the open receiver, but early on he looked a little off, not on his heels as much.
"We had him on his toes a little bit early," said LB David Harris, who led the D with 11 tackles and added a forced fumble to go along with his two sacks. "We were disguising and mixing up the looks to him and you could tell that he was a little uncomfortable in the pocket. He was a little bit rattled."
On the next offensive series for the Colts, Pierre Garcon caught a pass that went for 27, with Strickland making the tackle but leaving the game with a groin injury and not returning.
"That was huge for us. Donald was a big part of the game plan this week," Harris said. "Unfortunately, he went down and guys had to step up. That's what makes us a good defense. We have guys who are ready to step up."
Manning hit Garcon again for 36 yards, attacking Lito Sheppard's side on the veteran CB's first defensive play of the game. But penalties stalled the Colts, who settled for a Matt Stover field goal and the first points of the game.
On the next drive the Horseshoes drove from their 20-yard line to the Jets' 4, but New York's AFC representative once again held up. Lowery knocked the ball out of Garcon's hands in the end zone and Calvin Pace and Sione Pouha combined to prevent Manning's attempt to sneak it in.
"I think their game plan was to take chances at certain times, which they did," said Revis. "They completed passes, and a couple of times they didn't, Peyton missed."
After Mark Sanchez hit Dustin Keller for a 9-yard TD to put the Jets up, 14-6, Pace stripped Joseph Addai and Jim Leonhard recovered, leading to the Jets' only field goal.
But perhaps they scored too soon because with 2:11 left, Manning drove the Colts 80 yards on four plays to cut the lead to 17-13 at the half.
"Before we went out on that drive, the coaches said make sure they don't get in the end zone and he got in the end zone," Revis said. "We wanted to stop that key two-minute drive because he's great at that."
Manning and the Colts carried that momentum into the second half, driving 57 yards for a TD and the lead that they would not give up. Manning threw for 377 yards and three TDs and the Colts offense totaled 461 yards.
Wayne caught just three passes for 55 yards and Clark caught four for 35 and a TD. Revis rotated on both, but also played some on Garcon, who caught 11 for 151 yards and a TD. Austin Collie added seven catches for 123 yards, capitalizing on some miscommunication in the secondary.
"In the second half we adjusted to some things that made [Manning] more comfortable with what he wanted to do and he took advantage of those opportunities," Revis said. "We made some mistakes in the backend as a secondary and it fell on us."
To make it so far and get so close makes it burn so much more. The opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl doesn't come every year and the Jets know they have a lot to do to assure they get two more victories next season.
"Right now you can think about the future," said Harris. "You have to take this loss with a soft pill. It's going to be a tough couple of weeks coming up, knowing how close we were to the Super Bowl."
"Maybe this team needed this experience to get to the next step," said Leonhard. "We'll use this experience and try to move forward."