Much has been made of the Colts "lying down" for the Jets in Week 16 by pulling quarterback Peyton Manning with 5:36 remaining in the third quarter. But it wasn't as though the NFL MVP was having his way with the Jets' defense.
The Colts were clinging to a 15-10 lead when Curtis Painter replaced Manning against the Jets, and their 29-15 loss dropped them to 14-1.
Now the teams meet again Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium to decide the AFC representative in Super Bowl XLIV.
"We were holding our own, weathering the storm," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "A lot was made that they weren't connecting on passes. They were 'off.' But as you can see throughout the year, we have a little bit to do with that.
"We know it will be a little tougher because he knows some of our packages. [Manning] will study us to death. That's why it's key for us to be multiple ."
Although they held the Colts to 15 points, the Jets didn't shut down Manning. He completed 14 of 21 for 192 yards and no interceptions, but the Colts' two touchdowns came on running plays.
The Colts were the worst rushing team in the NFL and were held to 64 yards on 23 carries by the Jets, but Manning knows when to mix it in. "It was like 50-50," defensive end Shaun Ellis said of the duel with Manning. "We were just going back and forth like a tennis match. He missed some throws, and we had some opportunities to make some big plays [that missed]. He hit us with a couple runs, and of course, we were playing pass. They scored with that."
Applying lessons from their first meeting will help the Jets, and so will the fact that the Colts' divisional-round playoff win came against Baltimore, which plays the defense Jets coach Rex Ryan ran last season.
"What will really help us is watching the Ravens tape because Indianapolis had to do their best to win and you've got the Ravens, who play a lot like we do," said defensive lineman Mike DeVito, who had a sack in Sunday's win. "With the first game and the Ravens game, we have a lot of stuff to go off."
If the Jets had a good game plan for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, it must be even more sophisticated for Manning.
"You have to really switch up because he's going to go back to the sidelines and look at his pictures and make adjustments," Scott said. "You have to continue changing and evolving through the game so everything looks new to him. If you give him the same look, he'll find a hole in it. He's proven time and again that he can exploit it when it counts the most - late.''