Washington extends for the line
The New Year brings much reflection and for the New York Jets, looking back on an improbable run to the playoffs is certainly something they will always remember.
Each win down the stretch paved the way to their postseason berth, but it wasn't a victory that caught the eye of one particular offensive threat. The most influential game of the season for Team MVP Laveranues Coles was a disappointing Week Five loss in the Sunshine State.
"Right after the Jacksonville game when we lost 41-0, I looked at the fight in the guys in this locker room," Coles said. "The way that we came back to work that next week - I knew that there was something special about these guys. Most teams can fold it up after losing like that, but it seemed like these guys came back much hungrier to play football."
After that loss to the Jaguars, the Jets went 8-3 including Sunday's win over Oakland which guaranteed them a spot in postseason action.
"I've been around a lot of talented teams, but a lot of them didn't have that drive or will to even make it to the playoffs," Coles said. "If something went wrong, then they wouldn't fight adversity. The guys we have in here can deal with adversity and play hard to win the game.
"We have a lot of unselfish guys on this team," added Coles. "Guys that really want to work hard and have a common goal to want to win; there are very competitive spirits in this room."
In the spring, many prognosticators predicted a rebuilding year for the Jets. But with a new head coach came a brand new culture. Eric Mangini brought with him the proper tools to provide a group of underdogs the opportunity to shock the football world through hard work, a team-first attitude, and consistency.
"I'm extremely happy because they've worked together and collectively gotten better each week and played more and more as a team each week," Mangini said following Sunday's victory over the Raiders. "That is what helped us week-in and week-out. They've earned this opportunity in the way that they've worked."
Coach Mangini, still wet from his fourth quarter Gatorade bath on the sideline, finally cracked his "p-word" policy and opened up about the Jets' playoff situation.
"We can start talking about the playoffs," Mangini let out in a laugh. "It's exciting because it's been a long road for us and believe me - they'll tell you how hard the work has been. I'm just proud of them, and I'm really happy for us."
Co-captain Jonathan Vilma, who had five tackles in the win, couldn't agree more with his first-year head coach.
"It's very satisfying. We knew we could get to the playoffs and of course everybody else didn't think we could," said Vilma. "As a team, we knew we had it as far as camaraderie, and it's great that we came in here and proved it. All we had to rely on was each other."