Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
INDIANAPOLIS - After all the losses, Peyton Manning had turned into Rex Ryan's personal white whale, a quarterback who had so confounded Ryan's coaching sensibilities that it literally kept him up nights.
But Saturday night, Ryan finally conquered his nemesis, beating Manning and the Colts, 17-16, to set up another grudge match for the Jets' coach in New England. After a last-second win over the Colts, it's on to Foxborough to try to avenge that embarrassing 45-3 loss Dec. 6.
There is plenty of time for Ryan to reflect on the week ahead. Just not Saturday night.
"I think I earned 12 hours to enjoy this one," said Ryan, who has delivered his share of tweaks toward the Patriots, including a backhanded swipe at Tom Brady this past week. Ryan said Manning spends much more time preparing for games than Brady does, which he meant more as a compliment to Manning but also was taken as a shot at Brady.
But there's a week's worth of hype ahead of us to dissect Ryan's comments. After Saturday night's game, he was so thrilled that he made prominent mention of his first true win over Manning.
"I'm gonna say this," Ryan said, courtesy of the SNY broadcast feed. "Personally, finally got his -- ."
Finally, after five losses and a hollow win late last season in which the Colts rested their starters in the second half and passed up a chance at an undefeated season, Ryan had solved the Manning riddle. To limit one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history to 16 points at home, to proudly walk off the field after delivering a victory handshake instead of making a disconsolate, shoulder-slumped trek to the locker room, Ryan indulged in his moment.
"To pull this out against a great football team, and a great quarterback, it was a herculean effort by our team," Ryan said. "I'm just thankful for the men that I coach, the two [running] backs that pound it in there, our coaching staff, [kicker] Nick Folk, and I'm thankful I finally got to beat Peyton Manning."
It was one of the most glorious playoff wins in Jets history, and it came against the team whose nickname is forever linked to their greatest win of all. Joe Namath beat the Colts in Super Bowl III in one of the greatest upsets of all time. Now Mark Sanchez has beaten Manning in a much less shocking upset, but in stunning fashion nonetheless.
"Is it personal? Yes, it's personal," Ryan said Monday of his previous attempts to beat Manning. "Absolutely."
The Jets rebounded from a 7-0 halftime deficit with a terrific drive on their opening possession of the third quarter, relying on the rushing of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene and some timely passes from Sanchez (who had badly misfired on the team's final drive of the first half, which ended with an end-zone interception).
This time Sanchez found Dustin Keller on a 20-yard pass on third-and-3 from the Colts' 43. Greene and Tomlinson carried it from there, with Tomlinson scoring on a 1-yard run up the middle to tie it at 7. But the Colts took a 10-7 lead on their next drive after Adam Vinatieri's 47-yard field goal.
On their next possession, the Jets continued giving the Colts their best shot with a drive that was as good as any all season. How about a 17-play, 87-yard drive that lasted 9:54? Tomlinson's second 1-yard TD put the Jets up for the first time all night at 14-10 with 9:59 left.
Indy pulled to within 14-13 with 4:37 left on Vinatieri's 32-yarder, then went ahead 16-14 on Vinatieri's 50-yarder with 53 seconds to play.
In the end, though, the Jets won it on Folk's 32-yard field goal as time expired.
In the end, the Jets get the Patriots once again, as Ryan finally vanquished his white whale.