Reflecting on how the Jets allowed a 17-6 second-quarter lead to turn into a 30-17 loss in the AFC championship game last year in Indianapolis, Jets coach Rex Ryan said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning found the weak spots in the defense in terms of personnel and exploited favorable matchups to the hilt to fashion the comeback. He's hoping it will be a different story in the first-round rematch Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I don't think we matched up particularly well against them, but I think we'll match up better this time," Ryan said. "We'll see if it's a different outcome. I believe it will be."
Ryan said watching the tape of last year's game kind of makes him sick. Except for two early sacks, the Jets' defense didn't do much to disrupt Manning's timing with his receivers, allowing him to get scorching hot in the second half. But this year, linebacker Bart Scott is healthy, and the Jets have added defensive backs Antonio Cromartie and Brodney Pool and pass rushers Jason Taylor and Trevor Pryce.
"With those peices, I feel really confident," Ryan said. "I really feel better about going into this game, and I was confident last year. I know I've been wrong before, but we'll see."
Defensive back Dwight Lowery (pictured scoring on an interception return) said Ryan has expressed the same opinion to the team in terms of the personnel changes that were made in the offseason that were aimed at stopping Manning and the Colts. "We feel better prepared this time," Lowery said.
Recalling hos the Colts' comeback last year began with a touchdown pass to Austin Collie just before halftime, Lowery noted that an injury to extra cornerback Donald Sutherland in the first half last year compromised everything the Jets' defense planned to do against Manning and forced switches in the secondary that led to some miscommunication and mental breakdowns.
"They got momentum when they scored," Lowery said of the last second-qurter TD. "In the second half, we had to adjust a lot because there was an injury we had in the first half [to Strickland] that really affected things we wanted to do on defense. Manning did a good job of identifying what we were doing and attacking what we were doing like he does against everyone. You've got to anticipate that he's going to get hot, and you have to contain it. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you don't."