There was no letdown this time, no unbelievably flat performance like the one by the other tenant of Giants Stadium seven days earlier.
All week, the Jets talked about how they had to take advantage of their latest opportunity, one that fell right into their laps and gave them control of their own playoff situation. They just knew they couldn't let this one slip through their fingers or it would've been an extremely long offseason.
Then the Jets played one of their best games of the season last night in the national TV spotlight. They rode their league-best ground game and top-ranked defense and smothered the Bengals, 37-0, clinching a wild-card spot in the playoffs in what probably was the final game at the stadium.
"It was such a pleasure to really close this stadium out the way they deserve,'' linebacker Bart Scott said. "Jets fans have lived in misery for a couple of years, and we're just trying to change the mentality and let them know that we are trying to bring in a new era.''
"We were 4-6 at one time and a lot of people were writing us off, and maybe rightfully so,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "But I think if you really watched our games, you knew about this team and the resolve of this football team. Nobody in our organization thought we were done. I know outside, they can think it and they can say what they want. But I know one thing: You don't want to play us, and hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling.''
The Jets (9-7) ended a two-year playoff drought and set up a rematch in the AFC wild-card round. They earned the fifth seed and will meet No. 4 Cincinnati (10-6) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
"We're excited,'' Ryan said. "We're happy with the win and getting in the playoffs. But we're definitely not satisfied. We weren't going to be denied. I don't believe we backed into anything, so we're going to try to prove it.''
Said quarterback Mark Sanchez, "It's a special feeling. This is huge. We knew who to believe in and that was us, and we owe it to everybody in our organization, the fans for showing up tonight. It was a special atmosphere, especially for the veterans. These guys deserve it. They've been behind me all year.''
The statistics were stunningly lopsided. The Jets ran for 257 yards and held the Bengals to five first downs and 72 yards, including no net yards passing. The Bengals were 4-for-19 passes for 31 yards, but three sacks negated the yardage.
"That's not the outcome we wanted today,'' Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "The Jets outplayed us in all three phases and they got the victory. Now we get a chance to regroup and keep going again next Saturday afternoon, and that's about the size of it.''
The Jets wound up winning five of their last six games after a 1-6 stretch turned their 3-0 start into a 4-6 record.
"It feels good,'' said running back Thomas Jones, whose two short touchdown runs gave him 14 TDs this season, breaking his career high and the franchise mark he established last season. "It's a tribute to coach Ryan. He never gave up on us through the ups and downs of this season. He stuck with us. He kept us together. He made sure that we worked hard every week and he knew that we had a chance, and now we're here.''
This one was won in the first half, which ended with the Jets ahead 27-0. They were in total control from the outset, holding the ball for a whopping 24:50 to the Bengals' 5:10 and stockpiling 250 yards on 46 plays. They gobbled up 196 yards on 34 carries in the half against the Bengals' second-ranked run defense.
The Jets' defense was stout, holding the Bengals to 7 yards on 15 plays. Cincinnati mustered only one first down - on Darrelle Revis' illegal-contact penalty early in the second quarter - and Carson Palmer completed 1 of 11 passes for zero yards.
The Jets stepped on the Bengals' throats early. They marched down the field on the game's opening possession, showing they weren't about to tempt fate. They pounded the ball right at the Bengals and used a big-time run by Brad Smith on third-and-7 from their own 42 to get into prime scoring position.
Smith, whose role on offense has increased in the last month, took a direct snap in the "Tiger" formation, ran right, made a nifty cut, darted through the Bengals' front and blew through the secondary before being tackled at the 1 after a 57-yard gain.
Jones scored on the next play to cap the 72-yard drive, making it 7-0 with 10:46 left in the first quarter.
"It was huge,'' Jets right guard Brandon Moore said. "We haven't scored on an opening drive I don't think in a long time. I don't know if we've done it once, maybe Tennessee or something. But it was huge. We were executing really well and having explosive plays from Brad, it was really good to see. It was a good feeling. Good for Mark, good for our confidence level going into the rest of the game.''
Jay Feely's 20-yard field goal ended a 21-play, 74-yard drive that consumed 11:11 for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Jets put together another scoring drive two series later. Smith took a direct snap on second-and-11 and deked into the secondary after crashing through two tackle attempts. His 32-yard touchdown run gave the Jets a 17-0 edge.
The Jets kept their foot on the accelerator on their next drive, mostly riding the ground game until they got inside the 10. On second-and-five at the 6, Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotchery on a quick hitch behind the line of scrimmage. Cotchery got a good block from Braylon Edwards and dived into the end zone for what later was ruled a rushing touchdown, making it 24-0.
Feely kicked field goals of 39 and 40 yards for a 30-0 lead in the third quarter. Jones' 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter closed out the scoring.
Said Jones, "A lot of people wrote us off early. We keep fighting, kept fighting, kept sticking together, and these are the kind of things that happen when you stick together and play hard for 16 games.''
Another thing that happens: You get the right to play a 17th.