It certainly wasn't pretty in the first half when the Jets managed only 99 yards and had four straight three-and-outs. But they wore down the Chargers with their running game and allowed Mark Sanchez to do just enough to help them win. His turnover-free streak ended but he also threw a TD pass and was otherwise smart with the ball. Shonn Greene had 128 yards on 23 carries, consecutive 100-yard games in the playoffs for the rookie who has taken over for the banged-up Thomas Jones (41 yards, 14 carries). And when Rex Ryan called on the unit to win the game on a fourth-and-1, Nick Mangold and Damien Woody cleared the way for Jones to run all the way from San Diego to Indianapolis.
Darren Sproles? Check. Vincent Jackson? Check. LaDainian Tomlinson? Check. Antonio Gates? Well, almost a check. The Jets didn’t shut down every facet of the Chargers’ offense. But they came darn close. Interceptions by Jim Leonhard and Darrelle Revis gave the Jets the edge in turnovers, and even Mike Devito managed to sack Philip Rivers. The Jets put on a tackling clinic, preventing yards after contact. The Chargers converted only 4 of 13 third downs, most of them long attempts, and had only 49 yards in the second half before their 63-yard drive to make it a three-point game late in the fourth. It was the only game this season in which the Chargers were held to fewer than 20 points.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-PLUS
You could make a case that Steve Weatherford’s 51-yard punt that was downed at the 4 by Wallace Wright set up the Jim Leonhard interception that set up the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth. Weatherford had a bad start with a 28-yarder but came back strong and put two inside the 20. The punt coverage also held Sproles to 3 yards on two returns, and his longest kickoff return was 27 yards. Jay Feely had a 46-yard field goal in the third quarter and did a good job of neutralizing Sproles on kickoff returns. Do the Jets get points for spooking Nate Kaeding into three field-goal misses? No, but neither did the Chargers.
Rex Ryan didn’t hesitate to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the final minutes. In the third quarter? He burned a timeout to take his offense off the field and kick a field goal. It turned out to be the right call in a three-point victory, but wasting the timeout on a change of mind was tough, especially when he could have challenged the spot to stop the clock and think things through. The short squib kick after going ahead 17-7 wasn’t the brightest idea. Brian Schottenheimer called a solid game, staying away from the Brad Smith tricks when it was obvious that the Chargers had them covered, sticking with the running game until the long Greene run broke through, and easing Sanchez through the game with evolving confidence. And the Jets were disciplined enough that no one kicked a challenge flag to commit one of the dumbest penalties in recent NFL history.