PITTSBURGH - After a week of enduring harsh criticism for his team's inability to score points, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer fought back the best way he knew how Sunday. The embattled assistant coach put together what his players called one of the best game plans they'd ever seen.
The result was an upset 22-17 road win over the Steelers that improved the Jets' record to 10-4 and put them in prime position to qualify for the playoffs.
"He was in the zone calling those plays," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "At one point in the game, I looked at [right guard] Brandon Moore and it was like, 'Wow!' All the different personnel groupings in and out of the game. Everything was just clicking."
Perhaps the best play call of all was this one: On fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' 7 with 5:21 to play in the third quarter, the Jets lined up in a running formation to go for the first down. Sanchez faked a handoff to running back Shonn Greene, who dived into a pile of Steelers players who bit on the fake. Sanchez then took off on a naked bootleg around left end and scored a touchdown to tie the score at 17.
"The call came in and we just made sure we'd sell it up front, sell it with the running backs," said Sanchez, who was 19-for-29 for 170 yards and didn't throw an interception. "I think Shonn just dove over the pile to try to sell it, and then once I got around, I really started to dig and there was nobody there."
Said Moore: "Schotty did a great job of play-calling. If we had done our normal deal there and run that blast play, we probably wouldn't have gotten the first down. They had everybody down there. Great call by him."
Schottenheimer, who was not available for comment because assistant coaches do not speak to reporters after games, kept the Steelers' defense off balance with a nice balance of run vs. pass. They wound up with 27 running plays and 29 pass plays, grinding out 106 rushing yards and 170 passing yards.
As effective as Schottenheimer was on game day, he was equally instrumental the night before the game.
During a meeting with all of his offensive players, he asked that they try and think of people who believed in the team, rather than those who were skeptical of their chances after poor performances against the Patriots and Dolphins the previous two weeks, in which they scored a combined nine points.
"He said to think about the people that believed in you, whether it's a brother or a family member, or the guys in the locker room," Moore said. "That's one of the first things I thought about when we walked off the field after the game.
"We're the only ones who really believed we were going to win this game. Other than some family members and friends, that was it."
Schottenheimer believed in his team, too, and the results showed. With solid play-calling after two weeks of misery that put him on the spot, the embattled coach came through.
"He was on us all week to be real precise," tight end Dustin Keller said. "You could tell he was in the zone all week. He called about as close to a perfect game as you can call."