Well, there is something to be said for consistency. One year after losing to the Colts in the AFC championship game, the Jets traveled to Pittsburgh to try their luck and secure a super bowl bid.
The game started uncharacteristically for the Jets as Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall ran all over the Jets and ended the drive with a 1 yard touchdown run. One of the best rush defenses in the NFL was dominated by Mendenhall who rushed for 121 yards with one Touchdown. But more importantly than the score, Mendenhall both demoralized the Jets defense and tired them out as well.
After a two yard rush by Ben Roethlisberger, and a fumble returned for a touchdown, the Steelers led 24-3 at the half, and all seemed hopeless for the Jets.
But the Jets got the ball at the half and Mark Sanchez threw a 45 yard bomb to former Steeler Santonio Holmes to make it 24-10. The Jets then got their first major defensive stop of the game as safety Brodney Pool intercepted Roethlisbeger at the five yardline.
The fourth quarter started with a long drive by Sanchez and the Jets, but down by two scores, the Jets were playing as if it were the first quarter in a preseason game. They were running the ball every other play and just letting the clock tick down. Then on first and goal from the two, the Jets failed to get into the endzone four times and the Steelers got the ball back.
Roethlisberger fumbled the snap and the Jets scored a safety, but they still needed two touchdowns to take the lead. They scored one on a two yard pass to Jericho Cotchery, but chose to kick the ball to the Steelers. On third and six with just under two minutes left, Roethlisberger did what he does best. He fled from the pocket and threw an easy six yard pass to Antonio Brown for a game-ending first down. The Steelers kneeled the ball three times and the game ended. Final Score: 24-19.
Looking on ESPN this morning, I saw Mark Sanchez reporting that his headset broke multiple times during the game, and he blamed the loss partly on that, but I, personally, blame it on two different things. First, in the first half, the Jets got to Mendenhall in the backfield at least half of the times he recieved the ball, but they were unable to get him down. Mendenhall kept the Jets defense on the field and tired them out allowing a couple of easy touchdowns for the Steelers.
Second, the playcalling by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and the time management by Mark Sanchez cost the Jets at least four minutes off the clock. Their fourth quarter drive went for over eight minutes and included 7 rushes, only one of which was for more than 2 yards. I cannot imagine what Schottenheimer was thinking, but that wasted time cost the Jets another drive at the end of the game and another chance to score a touchdown.
But the important thing is that even if the Jets didn’t make the super bowl like Rex Ryan promised on “Hard Knocks,” they did eliminate the Patriots from the playoffs as well.
I remember thinking the same thing last year, “Mark Sanchez will be better next year and he will lead the Jets to a Superbowl.”