There was a crazy notion here in New York all last week that the Ghost of Playoffs Past, played by a ghoulish Peyton Manning, was going to come back and ruin the party for the Jets again. Everyone was talking about head coach Rex Ryan fearing Manning and that it would all turn out so badly, but Ryan’s “Hope” was found in a great running game for the offense, a defense that had been engineered in many ways just for this rematch, and a last second kick that hit the right spot.
There was a tough first half of matched zeroes, but the way Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and company were going, it looked like Manning was closed for business. This was the way Ryan envisioned things when he brought Cromartie into the mix. Things did change in the second half, and Ryan had to start worrying that no matter how well he had planned for this moment, Manning and the Colts were just going to squeak away with a 16-14 win.
Then came Mark Sanchez. Yes, he of the hurting arm and having a pretty much off night. When the pressure is on, Sanchez seems to rise to the challenge, and with fifty three seconds left he brought the team down the field and got them to where they needed to be for Nick Folk to have one shot to put it through the uprights. Talk about pressure! But Folk was game and the kick was good.
Unlike last year, Manning goes back home and the Jets move on. It felt good as a Jets fan to see Manning skulking off, defeated by Rex Ryan’s crew, the guy he had bested so many times before. After the game Ryan enjoyed the moment and then some, telling reporters that it felt good to see Manning know the feeling that he has known. Rex had the salt and was enjoying rubbing it in Manning’s wounds.
Of course, all green-blooded Jets fans were happy last night. It was a magic moment of victory with no time left on the clock. It’s the stuff of all kids’ dreams when they stand on a field or court: hit the homer that wins the big game, sink the basket at the last second, slap the puck into the net, or kick that ball free and clear. Nick Folk had that moment last night and the Jets rightly celebrated an amazing 17-16 victory.
But make no mistake: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots loom next weekend, and we can bet that Bill Belichick was enjoying this game and licking his chops for the next round. With Sanchez still ailing, and the Jets just barely getting this win, it looks like there could be another big blowout in Foxborough next week.
Still, there is always a miracle that can be had if things align the right way for Rex and his men. Anyone who watched last night’s game and saw that ball end things the Jets’ way have to be believers. So until next week, channel the late great Mets’ pitcher Tug McGraw saying “Ya gotta believe,” do a lot of praying, and keep your fingers crossed.
Photos Courtesy of Getty Images