The players had a night to let their 28-21 divisional round playoff win over the AFC East rival Patriots marinate, and now the Jets are starting to get prepared for the AFC Championship Game, when they'll make a return trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
First, some of the players on Monday reflected on what made them so successful against the previously 14-2 Patriots, particularly on the defensive end.
"We did some things differently," cornerback Dwight Lowery said. "We took advantage of some things that we know that they like to do. Everybody knew their role, and nobody cared and had no regard for what happened on the last play, on what's going to happen on the play after this one. We lived in the moment and that's all that mattered to us. The scheme was great, how we mixed things up was great and what was equally great was how we executed."
As the players streamed off the field at Gillette Stadium to a strange mixture of boos from bitter Patriots fans and cheers from the Green & White faithful who trekked to Foxboro, each man wore a smile. From Jason Taylor's emphatic fistpump and scream as he entered the tunnel into the locker room to Braylon Edwards having to retrieve Mark Sanchez from the field because he was basking in the win, the players really soaked it in.
"Each celebration intensifies," guard Brandon Moore said. "Each preparation intensified each game. It was no different on the plane. People were laughing, joking, smiling — you couldn't take the smile off of a guy's face, and rightfully so. You have to enjoy these wins."
Cornerback Darrelle Revis was pleased with his defensive performance, and all of head coach Rex Ryan's crew got a chance to relive Sunday's victory with an encore showing during today's video study. The Pro Bowl cornerback said that while the weekly game plan has not been formalized yet, the players will be studying, doing extra film work and zooming in on a Steelers team that they beat, 22-17, in Week 15. They know if they can repeat the deed this Sunday, they'll be heading to Dallas for the Super Bowl.
"I feel it," Revis said in reference to the Big Game. "One thing, we can't get beside ourselves because for us to get to that goal, it's winning this game. I think we just need to really focus in on this AFC Championship Game and not let it slip like we did last year when we had the lead on Indianapolis."
While the score was 17-6 with less than two minutes left in the first half of last season's title game, it ended in heartbreaking fashion — a 30-17 loss to the Colts. This postseason the Jets again traveled to Indianapolis and held quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts offense to 16 points.
Looking ahead to this second AFC Championship Game in two years, Revis has learned what the defense needs to do to reach the next level.
"We can't make mistakes," Revis said. "We just can't make mistakes on defense. This is a game of inches. We all know that. It just brings me back to the AFC Championship Game last year of us making a lot of mistakes in the second half. You're four quarters away from the Super Bowl, so you have to play almost a perfect game to get there. That's what we need to do. We need to play perfect, we need to play sound and we need to play great technique."
The challenge to be perfect is obviously a daunting one, but the roadmap laid out in front of the Jets has bred that need for flawless play. They already had to take down two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks in their home stadiums in Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady, and now they'll have to go to Heinz Field to face a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who has won two Super Bowls himself.
"Going into this playoff run, people said it couldn't be done," Moore said. "Manning, Brady, Roethlisberger. Super Bowls between all of those guys, and we've knocked two off and we have a handful with Roethlisberger. It's another 'Mission: Impossible.' "
The idea of this game being the fourth installment of the Tom Cruise movie franchise is one that these Jets players can feed off of throughout the week. The hype and chatter was at a fever pitch for the rematches against the Colts and Patriots, but so far this week the mood seems collected, focused and businesslike. From the start of training camp, Ryan and his bunch had the goal of a Super Bowl in their minds, and this Sunday night they'll be on the brink of completing that objective.
"This one is to get to the Super Bowl and that's what we've been talking about all along," Lowery said. "We've been talking about it so much, it's a challenge that we put out for ourselves as a football team and it's right there. It all comes down to us. The weeks prior, we were going against Peyton Manning and wanted to control him. We wanted to go against Brady and confuse him.
"Now it's all on us to get to the Super Bowl because we're in the position that we wanted to be in."