If the AFC Championship Game between the Jets and Steelers is anything like their Dec. 19 matchup in Week 15, it will be a thriller.
In a game that was tied three times and came down to the final seconds, the Jets beat the Steelers, 22-17, to rebound from a pair of bad losses to the Patriots and Dolphins. It was their first victory in Pittsburgh in franchise history.
With the Steelers holding a 17-10 lead, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez scored on a 7-yard run with 5:14 left in the third quarter and Nick Folk's extra point tied it. The play ended the Jets' drought of 178 minutes without an offensive touchdown.
Folk's 34-yard field goal with 10:07 to play put the Jets ahead for good, and Jason Taylor contributed a key play with 2:38 remaining by tackling Mewelde Moore in the end zone for a safety and a five-point lead.
That safety proved crucial as Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers down the field in the final minutes. Needing a touchdown, Pittsburgh got the ball at its 8-yard line with 2:08 to play and picked up a first down at the Jets' 10 in the final seconds. After spiking the ball to stop the clock with nine seconds remaining, Roethlisberger, throwing from the shotgun, fired a pair of incomplete passes, and the Jets held on to move to 10-4.
On the final play, reserve defensive back Marquice Cole tipped a pass intended for tight end Matt Spaeth in the back of the end zone. "It was nerve-wracking,'' the Jets' Braylon Edwards said. "When I was with the Browns, he beat us so many times on last-second drives.''
Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 99 yards on 17 carries for the Steelers. Roethlisberger passed for 264 but was sacked three times. Edwards caught eight passes for 100 yards for the Jets.
On Sanchez's touchdown run, he made a beautiful play-action fake, pretending to stick the ball in Shonn Greene's gut. Instead, Sanchez kept it and ran left on a naked bootleg that caught the Steelers off guard. He was untouched as he reached the end zone.
"Call came in and we just made sure we'd sell it up front, sell it with the running backs,'' Sanchez said. "I think Shonn dove over the pile to try to sell it, and then once I got around, I started to really dig and there was nobody there.''
The Jets' Brad Smith took the game's opening kickoff and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown. The Jets' last TD before that one? An 89-yard kickoff return by Smith early in the fourth quarter against the Bengals, three games earlier.
"This was a must win,'' Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said at the time. "We couldn't leave this stadium without getting a win. We found a way. It's tough playing here, seeing all the Terrible Towels. They've got a great defense as well. It speaks volumes for this team for winning in a tough environment.''