The New England Patriots had every right to be confident coming into Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. Not only were they a formidible opponent on their home field and had all facets of both theor offense and defense running smoothly, they had demolished these very same Jets back on December 6 with a humiliating 45-3 pasting.
The oddsmakers, the “experts”, the writers (including me) and the fans of the NFL all came to the same conclusion: Easy win for Bill Belichick’s crew.
Thing is, though, someone forgot to tell Rex Ryan and the rest of Gang Green that they shouldn’t have bothered showing up.
Bolstered by a tenacious defense that sacked New England quarterback Tom Brady five times, the Jets rode Mark Sanchez’s arm and Shonn Greene’s legs to an upset victory in Foxborough.
Sanchex, who was utterly dominated by the Patriots in that earlier loss, emerged as a new man during the game. Settling down after some early jitters, he threw three touchdown passes and completed 16 of 25 attempts. More importantly, he led the Jets, calming them and guiding them through the storm of noise that the New England faithful attempted to provide.
Shonn Greene had a coming out game of sorts as well, rushing for 76 yards and the winning touchdown. He pounded the powerful Patriots line time and again wit inside runs, eventually wearing them down.
While Jerricho Cotchery led the team with 96 receiving yards, it was Santonio Holmes who turned in the greatest display of skill. Running a fade pattern in the endzone, he outleaped his defender and showed impressive body control, getting both feet down in the narrowest of spaces to put the Jets up 21-11 in the third quarter.
As far as redemption stories go, though, the defense took the cake. DT Shaun Ellis played like a man possessed, sacking Brady twice during key moments. S Eric Smith made several key plays to go along with his team-leading 10 tackles. LB David Harris interceoted an errant Brady pass and nearly ran it home for the pick-six. Finally, Darrelle Revis lived up to his reputation as he locked down his assignments nearly the entire game.
The Jets now travel to Pittsburgh to face an equally daunting task in the Pittsburgh Steelers. It won’t be easy at all, obviously, but keep in mind that the Jets have now defeated two of the greatest quarterbacks who have ever played the game in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
They showed what they are capable of, riding a wave of emotion provided by a pre-game speech from former Jet Dennis Byrd, a man who overcame even bigger odds.
It just might be time to start believing the hype.
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Written by Frank Mazzola