The question of whether or not the Jets backed into the playoffs has reverberated since Week 16 when Colts coach Jim Caldwell pulled quarterback Peyton Manning and a number of other starters and the Jets rallied for a 29-15 win. Judging from the Jets' reaction to questions about how they reached Sunday's AFC title game in Indianapolis, the criticism still stings.
After all, the Jets trailed, 15-10 when Manning left the game late in the third quarter. Obviously, completing the job is a major theme for the Jets this week. As safety Jim Leonhard said today, "Now we get a chance to finish it. It's a game we expected to be in. You look at the playoffs and how they were unfolding and it was, 'We're going to go back to Indy and finish it. We're going to see what happens.'
"It will be difficult. They're playing as well as anyone right now. But it's a game we need to win to get where we want to go."
Several Jets were asked if the Colts might have created a monster with their approach to that game. "You could say that," Leonhard said. "We felt like we were always a monster even though we had some down times this year. We had the talent to get here with or without their help. We'll take it, but we felt like we should be here whether we earned it or not."
When defensive tackle Marques Douglas was asked the "monster" question, he agreed with Leonhard and took it a few steps farther. "They have," Douglas said of the Colts. "Whenever you feel like you're disrespected; whenever you feel like guys don't honor the way you play ball; whenever you feel like you're the constant butt of jokes, I always say, 'You better watch out because, once a guy has a chip on his shoulder, he can run through a brick wall.'
"There was a lot of chatter out of the Colts about they let us win the game and maybe they should put an asterisk beside the win. We feel different ... The last time I checked, Peyton only had, I think, 106 yards passing [actually, 192] when he was in there and I don't think they ran the ball all that effectively [only 64 yards on 23 carries]. We're going to get their best game, and they're going to get ours and we're going to see how it ends."
Douglas couldn't name anyone on the Colts who specifically said the Jets should put an asterisk by the win, nor could he say any of their players said anything to that effect on the field after the Dec. 27 game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Nonetheless, the sense of disrespect is real for him and many other Jets. "Those guys felt like, if they would have stayed in the game, they would have won," Douglas said. "Fans were saying it; the media was saying it, and we felt like some of the players were even saying it. Not necessarily to me, but things get around in-house. What do you know? We get another shot to prove it wasn't a fluke."