In Week 13, the Jets were beaten by the Patriots, 45-3, and the Green & White's divisional foes were crowned by the media as the NFL's best team. On Sunday night, head coach Rex Ryan's crew walked back into the scene of the crime and came away with a 28-21 win in the divisional round of the playoffs.
This was surprising to many but not these Jets.
"We just believed that we could go in and win the ballgame," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "We had a perfect game plan put together offensively and defensively. Special teams did their job. We played a great team ballgame today."
Holmes finished the game with three catches for 20 yards, but one of them was a scintillating touchdown grab in the back corner of the end zone to make the score 21-11 in the fourth quarter.
It was a balanced offensive performance as the Jets rushed for 120 yards and threw for 194. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had a near-flawless day as he also found receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards for big plays. Running back Shonn Greene had 76 yards on 17 carries, including a big touchdown run to all but seal the deal, while LaDainian Tomlinson also contributed with a receiving touchdown and 43 rush yards.
"We said it all year long — we're a resilient bunch of guys," Tomlinson said. "We're going to do what is necessary to win. Running the football, throwing the football, playing great defense, special teams — you've seen it all year long."
This is just another chapter in what has been a thrilling Jets season. There were few people that gave them a chance going into Foxboro, but the group of guys that all bought into the system and believed in themselves proved their mettle on the field.
In the postgame locker room, Jets owner Woody Johnson was given a gameball by Ryan and later gushed about his team.
"I'm obviously proud," Johnson said. "Going through a tough season last summer seems like an eternity from now. I'm just really proud of the players. Hopefully this will make the fans happy."
The 2010 Jets have had their fair share of controversies, the most recent being the banter back and forth in the media with the Patriots during the week. None of that mattered once the teams walked on the field this afternoon, and Ryan's Jets moved to 3-2 against New England in the two seasons he's been at the helm. Locker room leader Bart Scott spoke about the rivalry in light of the Week 13 contest and how it impacted him and his teammates.
"They took something from us and we came to retrieve it and I think we got it back," Scott said. "It's a tremendous program, don't get me wrong. We have a tremendous around of respect for the New England Patriots and what they do. We're not getting pushed over anymore. We came here to make our mark. I think we marked a little territory. This is how rivalries start. Rivalries start when both teams take something from the other team."
It was Scott and the defense that really did a heavy amount of the damage to the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady managed 299 yards and two touchdowns but was also sacked five times, fumbled and threw an interception. It was a day when Jets DE Shaun Ellis and others were able to get pressure and force Brady off of his spot.
"Coming into this game we said, 'If they don't score, they don't win,' " cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "And we just tried to keep them out of the end zone the best that we could. Overall, a team effort is the best thing. We got a team-effort win."
Revis did a nice job of locking down receivers as he registered two pass defenses and six tackles. David Harris had 12 tackles while Eric Smith had 10. The defense played with a chip on its shoulder, was physical and made New England claw for every inch of turf. On offense, particularly with Greene and center Nick Mangold in the running game against monster nose tackle Vince Wilfork, it was the same way.
"This team, we're a family. We know what we're capable of," Greene said. "That's the thing about football. It's a family sport and we all have each other's back. We had each other's back tonight."
Just as Ryan predicted when his team walked out of Heinz Field with a win in December, the Jets will again travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game next Sunday. They'll have to use the same level of intensity, effort and focus to muster a third "team victory" and complete a fascinating run of playoff wins on the road against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
"It's very gratifying," guard Brandon Moore said. "I'm just proud of the team. Last week it was like that, this week it was a total team effort with defense, offense and special teams and you can't be more proud of a team that plays like that. This is the time you want to be doing that and it's worked out well for us."