For 28 minutes, the Jets played the exact type of game they needed to play to beat the Colts.
For the final 32 minutes, though, the Colts played the exact type of game they needed to play to beat the Jets.
The Colts controlled the game in the second half (and the final two minutes of the first half), and for that reason, they're going to the Super Bowl.
This game really went exactly like I expected it too...or at least, it blended all of the elements of what I thought the Jets or Colts needed to be successful.
First of all, Jay Feely missed two field goals - one he should have made, and a long one. The first one, which would have put the Jets up 3-0, was kind of a foreshadow of what was to come. And other than the Colts taking a 3-0 lead shortly thereafter, it was the Jets' only misstep of the first 28 minutes.
The Jets pressured Peyton Manning. I never see Manning get sacked - the Jets did it on two consecutive dropbacks. Offensively, after the Colts' field goal, Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards on one of those bombs that I've been dying to see the Jets pull out - 80 yards for a touchdown. Defensively, again, the Jets had Manning rattled - stopping him behind the line of scrimmage on a goal-line sneak attempt, forcing a field goal to make it 7-6. The Jets came back with what has been a staple of their post-season run - creative play-calling, with an option pass by Brad Smith for 45 yards to Jerricho Cotchery, who had another big game - then Sanchez hit Dustin Keller for a touchdown. After a Feely field goal following a turnover forced when the Jets busted into the backfield and broke up a handoff, and the 17-6 lead, the wheels fell off for the Jets.
Or you could look at it as the Colts' game plan started to work.
The underneath passes started working for the Colts - Manning found Austin Collie for 18, 46, and then a 16-yard touchdown to make it 17-13 at the half. Lots of missed tackles combined with the Jes losing Drew Coleman, and the Colts exploited all of it.
After the Jets missed a 52-yard field goal to open the second half (in hindsight a punt would have worked better field-position-wise), it was Pierre Garcon's turn, leading a drive that resulted in a 20-17 lead for the Colts. The Jets' play-calling ran dry at this point (hurt by the injury to Shonn Greene, no doubt), when they had to come from behind. The Colts were in their game. Manning found Dallas Clark, who hadn't done anything all day, for a touchdown to make it 27-17. Sanchez got picked off on a high throw...and the defense just couldn't get off the field.
There were positives. The Jets hung in for a lot of the game. Mark Sanchez played very well. But there were too many negatives, not the least of which were the holes in the Jets' defense that were exploited.
The bottom line is, the Jets' magic ran out. They weren't necessarily the better team in their post-season matchups this year...they were just the team that played better. The Colts on Sunday were the better team.
They deserve to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
-Not to make this sound like it's all about me, but I know 90% of my readers are more interested in my reaction to the game than my analysis of the game. So here it is.
I'm really sad.
This entire season I've been able to separate myself emotionally from the Jets. In the past any of those heart-wrenching losses during the regular season would have just destroyed me - I would have been upset all week until the next heart-wrencher. But following last year I was able to separate myself more - I didn't have DirecTV this year, I was willing to miss games if they weren't on television, and I was fine after losses...until now.
When the Jets were one win from possibly winning it all - this could have been the season - I started to let my mind go there. Then, when the Jets led 17-6, all I could think about was getting that game over as soon as possible. To blow that lead so quickly was like a punch to the gut. Just like all of those old losses that I had put behind me.
So I'm disappointed, but I'm not blind to the fact that there's a lot of promise in this team. And I'm also scared. Because I remember feeling that same way after the last AFC Championship Game appearance. And it took 11 years for a return trip. I don't want to wait 11 more years to see if the Jets will make it to the Super Bowl.
It's going to be hard enough waiting 7 more months to see how the Jets follow up this season.