INDIANAPOLIS - Bart Scott kept noticing that something was missing, and he wondered if producers on a couple of the television networks somehow had misplaced the Jets' logo.
"We were left for dead," the chatty linebacker said yesterday. "People talking about all the scenarios, the Jets' name didn't even pop up. They do the commercials and they show all the people that are still fighting and still alive. They don't even show any green and white, man. It was all the other teams."
But now, after Jim Caldwell's decision to break out the hook and pull Peyton Manning & Co. with 5:36 left in the third quarter aided the Jets in their 29-15 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium - a win that snapped the Colts' regular-season winning streak at an NFL-record 23 games - the Jets (8-7) are on the verge of the almost unthinkable.
With a win against old friend Laveranues Coles and the Bengals (10-5) in the final regular-season game at Giants Stadium in six days - kickoff has been moved back to 8:20 p.m. so it can be shown on NBC - the Jets can punch their playoff ticket.
They got all the help they needed Sunday with the Ravens, Broncos, Dolphins and Jaguars losing, and now, unbelievably, they control their own playoff fate.
"It'll just be great to shut everyone up . . . ,'' Scott said. "Players can't get emotional. We can't be up and down, up and down, because you never know. This is the craziest NFL season I've been a part of in my eight years. But to control your own destiny, what more can you ask for? It's in your hands and not somebody else's."
Said Shaun Ellis: "I mean, we're back in it again. It's a one-game season and we have to go out and play with it on the line again. It feels good to be able to come in and get a win."
The Jets got a major assist from Caldwell, who provided a late grab-bag-like Christmas present. Indianapolis was up 15-10 in the third quarter when Caldwell pulled the plug, and the Jets played the bulk of the game's final 20:30 against the Colts' reserves. It provided a weird, awkward ending in a game the Jets weren't about to apologize for winning.
"This football team beat 14 teams," Rex Ryan said, "so they earned the right to play it the way they wanted to."
The second half went the Jets' way from the opening kickoff, when Brad Smith fielded the ball six yards deep in his own end zone. He motored 106 yards - blowing past a last-ditch attempt from kicker Adam Vinatieri near the Colts' 40 - for the touchdown as the Jets took a 10-9 lead.
"It was one of the most exciting plays of my life," Smith said, "knowing the situation and seeing the guys and how happy they were on the sideline."
On its ensuing possession, Indianapolis (14-1) answered with a nine-play, 81-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Donald Brown for a 15-10 lead. But that was the final drive for Manning and the Colts' starters, opening the door for the Jets to walk right through and seize control.
With Curtis Painter at quarterback and Manning looking on helplessly with his helmet on and arms folded behind his back, Calvin Pace came flying around the left side of the Colts' line on first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 20, sacking Painter at the 12 and knocking the ball out of his hands. Marques Douglas pounced on the ball at the 1 and slithered his way into the end zone, putting the Jets ahead for good with 1:29 left in the third. Sanchez hit Dustin Keller for the two-point conversion and an 18-15 bulge.
So the Jets need one more victory to end their two-year playoff drought, something that left them downright giddy.
"That's a great feeling because last year I know what it felt like to have it all out of your hands," right tackle Damien Woody said. "You go from having it all there to the point where it's just not there anymore. It's a greet feeling. It should be an electric atmosphere next week. Last game at the stadium and we win, we're in. You couldn't ask for a better scenario for us. We've just got to come in with the mind-set of whatever it takes. For one week, let's get it done."