Just how did the Jets finally get to Peyton Manning, slowing down the future Hall of Fame quarterback and giving Rex Ryan his first win in six tries against the Colts' main man?
They essentially tried to take a page out playbook used by New Orleans in its 31-17 win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. It was all about making sure the Colts has as few possessions as possible.
Indianapolis only had the ball three times in the second half, getting nothing but field goals of 47, 32 and 50 yards from kicker Adam Vinatieri.
"The Saints gave them only eight possessions, really only seven true ones because he had the one backed up where they ran it three times," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "So, we always said, if we can limit the possessions and bend but don't break defensively, and again that’s so against our nature to do. But it was one and I’m glad that we talked about it and I had to remind Rex, 'Hey, we’ve got to stay the course.' And he and I both -- I had to remind him a couple of times. It almost cost me my job a couple of times having to remind him."
The Jets also changed up their fronts, alternating between their standard three-man alignment and four-man looks, all with hopes of throwing Manning off his game, which they did for the most part.
Manning completed 18 of 26 attempts for 225 yards and a touchdown, and finished with a rating of 108.7. But he was only 6 of 13 for 103 yards in the second half. Why?
"We didn't get nearly exotic as we had been because every time we tried to, he burned us," Pettine said. "He either ran the ball or threw it out quick, and I just thought it was a tremendous job by our guys executing the plan. We had said all week that our plan wasn’t going to be aggressive, but were going to be aggressive in how we played the run, how we hit receivers underneath, how we tackled and I thought the guys executed it great."
Remember, the Jets stacked their roster to knock off Indianapolis, adding pieces they felt would help get them past Manning. They dealt for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who did get burned on that 57-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon, also drafted Kyle Wilson, signed Brodney Pool, and added Jason Taylor.
That's why there nothing but smiles in the locker room, including from Pettine.
"It’s tremendously satisfying," he said. "This is a game we all knew was on the horizon and I think it came a little sooner in the playoffs than we thought. I knew at some point, we would have to come in here and win to get the gorilla off our back again. It was big shift for us schematically a lot more deeper zones. It was against our nature to be bend, but don't break and to be more passive in our approach. But against a guy like Peyton Manning, you have to. That's the only way.
"He’s too good when he sees pressure, he’s too good when he sees guys isolated on islands – other than [Darrelle] Revis, obviously – and I think we also used that to our advantage as well. We locked him and kind of slung the coverage away from him a lot of times, too, and I think that helped us."