Here is what the Jets need against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday to reach Super Bowl XLV: the turnover-free game of Mark Sanchez’s life; clutch playmaking from his receivers; effective ground-and-pound in the running game; a rare balance of pass rush and pass coverage on defense; and steady play from the team’s inconsistent punter and placekicker.
Unlikely as that set of circumstances may be, the Jets can produce it. That’s because Rex Ryan’s team — the new “Same old Jets” — has been incrementally more impressive since its first postseason win, at Cincinnati last January. An improbable Jets win at Pittsburgh (for the second time in five weeks) would further confirm that for this group, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Sanchez is emblematic of what the Jets are showing themselves to be. A quarterback with a 70.2 career passer rating in the regular season, Sanchez’s career postseason rating is 92.2, with a 4-1 record. His start Sunday at Pittsburgh, against a defense-focused team whose offense threatens big gains in the air, is an opportunity for another great stride forward.
These Jets are still a brash new NFL contender. But the veteran roster behind Sanchez has been hungry to win for years.
Jets 16, Steelers 13