Sit there and honestly tell me you believed the Jets were bound for the AFC Championship game a month ago.
Even the most diehard of fans probably didn't truly think this was possible. Maybe we should give these Jets a new nickname, something that reflects their fate over these last four weeks or so.
Why don't we call them Palmetto bugs.
They won't die.
“You just have to fight adversity," lockdown Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We have a lot of doubters and a lot of people say ‘the same old Jets.' And I think we are getting out of that hole right now by just being in the playoffs this year. And we want to build off this. That’s all we want to do. And just try to be a playoff contending team every year.”
What can you say about the impressive showing of the Jets two key rookies once again? I've been touting (people can finally see with their own eyes now) Shonn Greene's ability dating back to training camp, and he's become a phenomenon all of the sudden because more eyes are watching.
He had a great game, running for 128 yards and that huge 53-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, when he plowed through the Chargers' defense and did a little LT salute of sorts when he hit paydirt to give the Jets a 17-7 cushion.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez was unspectacular, yet effective again. He completed 12 of 23 attempts for a modest 100 yards. He threw that 2-yard touchdown toss to Dustin Keller that gave the Jets the lead for good at 10-7, but also saw his streak of three games without a turnover snapped when he threw a bad pass intended for Braylon Edwards in the third quarter that Quentin Jammer picked off.
“That one looked like it was going to be costly for us because you turn the ball over to a team like that, same way with Indianapolis, turn the ball over against Indy, those guys can get on and score in a heartbeat," Sanchez said. "You never want to let one get away like that. It was a poor decision and it should have been picked by the first guy. It was just bad all the way around. But in games like this you got to level yourself. You got to understand there are going to be mistakes."
Sanchez, of course, was not far from where he grew up and played his high school ball. So I asked him if there was any special significance to coming home and getting the postseason dub in Southern Cali.
“It means the world to our team. It wasn’t about me coming to San Diego," he said matter of factly. "It was about the Jets coming to San Diego. It was our offensive line just grinding it out. Running back Shonn Greene stepping out and running back Thomas Jones getting that crucial first down at the end. The defense … I mean we leaned on them heavy all year and they didn’t disappoint. We made some amazing plays. Darrelle Revis, Kerry Rhodes making some big hits. Bryan Thomas and all these guys. An unbelievable effort by our team. Great game plan and hats off to San Diego for their best efforts. It was a great way to win for us.”
But he was later asked again about getting a playoff win in Qualcomm Stadium, the very place he was sitting in the stands behind one of the end zones around this time last year watching the quarterback he went up against yesterday take on the QB he'll see again in six days.
"It was special, I know that," he said. "I’m counting my blessings and am so thankful for the guys around me and being drafted by the Jets. Them trading up seems like a lifetime ago that I was here last year for this game, watching this game against [Peyton] Manning and Philip Rivers. I saw the Chargers win in overtime. I was sitting way at the top, right near the score board. It’s a really special feeling. To be here now, to win this game is an amazing ride you can’t do it alone. It’s a strong family and a great organization.”
But while the Jets are ecstatic, you can only imagine what emotions were flowing through Chargers. Three missed field goals by Nate Kaeding, who had made 20 straight before his first miscue, will haunt him for months and who knows if he'll ever get over it.
“It’s tough, it is obviously not enjoyable," Kaeding said. "The other side of it definitely beats this side of it but like I said, if you play this game and you can only accept when things go well, then you’re in the wrong business. Especially in my position because you’re going to miss some and unfortunately some days like this will come and my really bad days have been untimely ones. It's tough to deal with but you have got to deal with it. It’s part of the deal.”
And as usual, Norv Turner, who's never been known as a big game coach, couldn't get it done in a big spot. Someone asked the Chargers coach if he had ever been a part of a team that was so successful, only to have it come crashing down with such a thud.
"I don’t think it all came crashing down," he said. "Again, these games as I said during the week everyone wants to know they’re eight teams in it and they’re all good football teams. These games come down to a few plays and there some great effort out there. Defensively I thought we did an awful lot of good things. We made mistakes that we normally don’t and we didn’t do enough good things.”
Yeah, but does this make this season, in which San Diego won 11 straight games, went 13-3 and earned the No 2 seed, that much tougher to swallow?
“There’s only one team happy at the end," Turner said. "Unless you win it all, it eventually ends like this, either this week, or next week, or at the Super Bowl. Obviously you want to be the team standing at the top, but for 31 teams it ends like this. Some get further thaothers, but the feeling of the loss, defeat and disappointment is the same for all 31 of us. We prepared the right way, practiced the right way, but just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
Just call Norv Captain Denial. So while his team stews in the offseason, wondering how they choked, the Jets are ecstatic that they are only one win away from the Super Bowl.
“It’s a great feeling," Greene said. "Our team has been through so much this season. We stuck together. Nobody believed in us. But we got the job done.”