In the 19th century, the preferred method of warfare featured cannons fired from the decks of battleships. If they were not properly tied down, they could roll around on deck and damage the ship, sometimes even killing or injuring members of their own crew: loose cannons, frequently unpredictable, volatile and explosive.
We don’t use battleships on the front lines much anymore. We now turn to the Jets.
Yes, the AFC Championship game is every bit as “personal” as was the divisional round game against the Patriots. But the currents powering Florham Park this week are more restrained. The media gave Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie a chance to fire the first shot across the Steelers’ bow in his press conference immediately following the Patriots game, but he responded by calling Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a “great guy” and adding, “I love him.”
So what in the name of Hollywood Henderson is going on here? There is almost a feeling of disappointment, like the Jets are letting us down, by refusing to engage in the name calling and trash talking that characterized last week. But the New England game was a revenge game of sorts, and all week the Jets sought to knock the Patriots off balance, still steamed over the 45-3 drubbing the Patriots inflicted in week 13. Rex Ryan himself drew a distinction between head coaches Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin, reminding the media of a 38-7 drubbing the Steelers had handed the Ravens in 2007, when Ryan was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator. In that game, Ryan remembered, Tomlin ran the ball on every snap in the second half as a way of showing (ahem, Foxborough) respect for his opponent.
Even so, Ryan’s Jets, returning to the AFC Championship game for the second straight year, still quietly feel like they have something to prove. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes – traded to the Jets from the Steelers earlier this season in the midst of a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy – said he got his “personal game” out of the way when the Jets won at Pittsburgh in week 15. Virtually in the same breath, though, he told the media that if the Jets were to win the Super Bowl (for which he was the MVP when the Steelers won in 2009), he would consider it a slap in the face to the team that traded him.
It’s another chance for quarterback Mark Sanchez to quiet his critics. If the Jets win Sunday, Sanchez will have more road playoff wins than any quarterback in NFL history.
And after shutting down Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in successive weeks, the Jets defense now faces Ben Roethlisberger, a task Jets cornerback Drew Coleman calls “Mission: Impossible III.”
It’s Ryan’s third straight trip to the conference championship game – he coached the Ravens defense that lost at Heinz Field in 2009 – and he says he doesn’t know if he can handle not winning it this time around.
The captains of the old battleships, confident they could navigate their crew through stormy seas, sometimes intentionally unleashed the cannons in order to get a better shot at their adversaries. But sometimes the cannons were equally as effective when restrained, efficient under the steady guidance of the sailor’s hand.
About the Author
Written by Lisa Edwards
I am a former producer at ESPN and currently run my own television production company. I also am a field producer for the NFL Network.