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Jets have gotten this far by embracing their identity

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan looks on

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan looks on during practice. (January 22, 2010) Credit: AP

INDIANAPOLIS - Brandon Moore thinks there's a certain characteristic that runs through the Jets' bloodlines that came straight from Rex Ryan.

"We are a resilient team," the right guard said. "All the things we've been through this year, it's all for a reason. I think it's paying off this time of year.

"In the beginning of the year, we may have started off a little hot. But we weren't the same team we are now. Definitely, guys are buying into Rex's gospel that he passes down to us - being a tough team, a physically tough team. It's definitely a mind-set that we have."

That, in part, is why the Jets find themselves on the cusp of playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in 41 years, only a win shy of making reservations to be in South Florida for the big game Feb. 7.

They'll take on Peyton Manning and the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in the AFC Championship Game today, their first title game since losing to the Broncos in Denver on Jan. 17, 1999.

The Jets posted a 29-15 victory over Indianapolis on Dec. 27, when coach Jim Caldwell yanked the starters in the third quarter and the 14-0 Colts eschewed the opportunity to go for an undefeated season.

"I know both teams are going to be excited about this opportunity," Ryan said. "Both teams have earned this opportunity and it's just going to be a great game.

"When you look at it, the two teams are built differently. Both teams have really good defenses. Their style of play is different than ours. You look at their offense, they are built more of a throw-the-football-down-the-field [type of team]. We are built more to run it.

"You know, we are similar that we are both effective and we got here, but we have just done it differently. It's going to be a great matchup - old school versus new school."

Ryan's hard-line, old-school approach - picked up from his father, former NFL coach Buddy Ryan - has totally changed the Jets' mentality. It has made them tougher, even if Ryan hasn't done it in drill-sergeant fashion.

Unlike last year's team, which was 8-3 before losing four of its last five games and failing to make the playoffs, these Jets have rattled off victories in seven of their last eight games.

Although it's been just two months, Nov. 22 seems like light years ago. That's the day the Jets trudged off the Gillette Stadium field after a 31-14 loss to the Patriots, two games under .500 and with their playoff hopes severely dashed.

"We are definitely tough-minded," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "How many teams do you know that were 4-6 and everybody counting out that got to the point to where we are at now? I think that just speaks for itself."

Sure, they've received a few breaks along the way. The Colts had nothing to play for in the first meeting between the teams, nor did the Bengals in the regular-season finale, and the Jets reached the playoffs by beating those division champions.

Then Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham missed two field-goal attempts in the Jets' 24-14 wild-card win and reliable Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding botched three attempts Sunday in the Jets' 17-14 win.

Still, the Jets have displayed toughness and grit, overcoming key injuries to two Pro Bowl players in successive weeks that had many thinking the Jets' season essentially was over when each went down. But not even the loss of nose tackle Kris Jenkins to a torn ACL against Buffalo on Oct. 18 and seeing all-purpose back Leon Washington carted off with a broken leg in Oakland on Oct. 25 was enough to shatter the Jets' spirits. They finished with the top-ranked defense and No. 1 rushing attack even without those two.

"We never lose our identity," left guard Alan Faneca said. "We are who we are. On the defensive side of the ball, they stay the same way they are the entire game. They are coming after you, they are attacking. We are going to run the football. If you stop us somewhat, we are going to find another way to run the ball. We're going to stay with that mentality of ground-and-pound.

"In Pittsburgh, not that we got away from the run, but we went to other things. Here we're like, 'This is who we are, this is our identity, this is what we do best. And we're going to find a way to get this done.' "

That's the same mantra the Jets will have here Sundayas they try to end a four-decade- old Super Bowl drought, something that leaves them salivating.

"I think we just want to taste this win right now," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "That will get you to the Super Bowl - just a win. But if you lose, it's going to be a bad taste in your mouth. Getting a win, that would be a lot for us and this organization, just trying to get to the Super Bowl. We haven't been there in a long time and our fans and a bunch of people have been waiting. So this is our chance to go out there and do it."

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