200 Miles From the Citi

January 10, 2010 7:20 AM

SUNDAY PAPER (Year 2, Volume II)

Greene_Playoffs.JPGJets 24, Bengals 14.

We're playing with house money now.

I keep saying this, but my modest goal for the year was to get Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez some playoff experience.

At this rate, they're going to get some Super Bowl experience.

This is more than I ever could have hoped for out of this football season...and I hope it keeps going.

Everything that has ever gone wrong this year is going right for the Jets right now.

Mark Sanchez is not turning the ball over.  The defense is coming up huge in big spots.  The coaches are calling the right plays.

It's amazing.

Shonn Greene, with his 135 yards and a touchdown; Dustin Keller, with his 99 yards receiving and a touchdown; and Mark Sanchez, with his 12-of-15 performance with a touchdown, are the obvious stars (and stars of tomorrow).  But I want to recognize a couple of unsung heros.

Jay Feely, pressed into punting duty, with 3 of 7 punts inside the 20, and then a big field goal, all make up for any miscue-carryover from the Atlanta game.  Not to mention the fact that he was aware every time he had to be on the field - a tough position to be put into, in the worst-timed illness by a Jets player since John Abraham.

The other huge performance was Brian Schottenheimer, who seemed to call the right play on every possession.  He reacted to what the Bengals were doing.  They were jumping on a handoff as soon as the play was being made?  Schottenheimer mixed in a play-action...and every time he did it totally took the Bengals by surprise and ended up being a big gainer.  Just a huge play-calling day.

Nothing sums up the Jets' day better than this - they capitalized on every Bengals' misstep.  Each score for the Jets' reflected on the Jets playing a complete game:

-Down 7-0, Jay Feely's punts help the Jets gain field position on the Bengals.  (They pin the Bengals inside the 15 and force a punt.)  The Jets get the ball at the 47, run two plays, and Shonn Greene scores a 39-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7.

-Darrelle Revis intercepts Carson Palmer (a total justice interception after a bad illegal contact call earlier in the drive), setting up a 45-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Keller to give the Jets a 14-7 lead.

-The Jets' drive after Shayne Graham misses the 35-yard field goal attempt goes 75 yards, ending with a 9-yard touchdown run by Thomas Jones to go up 21-7.

-The Jets need to stem the tide after Cedric Benson goes for a 47-yard touchdown, and they drive down the field for a field goal.

There were some negatives - Benson way outplayed Thomas Jones (not sure why he sat out so much), but the bigger deal than their bad-blood matchup was how much he outplayed the Jets' defense - 169 yards is too much for this defense to give up, especially when missed tackles are involved.

And there were some terrible penalties - most notably in the early third quarter, when the Jets were lining up for a field goal and cost themselves 15 yards in penalties and had to punt.

But the overwhelming vibe is positive.  And now we wait to see if it'll be a return trip to Indianapolis or a visit to San Diego.  We'll know by 4 o'clock.  I think San Diego at this point is a tougher matchup.  I'll take a re-match with the Colts, and I'll explain why this week if that is indeed the matchup.  I wouldn't mind seeing the Patriots beat up the Chargers a bit and then hopefully see the Jets take on a more beat-up team coming out of that game in the AFC Championship Game.

Because I think this team really does have a shot at playing in that game.  And I can't really believe it. 

*Who had Arizona returning to the playoffs while the Super Bowl champion Steelers stayed home?  Does this end the "Super Bowl Loser" jinx?

*Speaking of who had what, here's a link to my pre-season predictions.  Not terrible, but certainly not perfect.

*And forgot to mention this last week...but with the Saints winning the NFC South, another last-place team from the previous year wins that division - it has happened all but one year, I think, in that division's history.  Last year the streak broke when Atlanta finished a game behind Carolina.  It's one of my favorite stats ever - I wish it were still a streak.

*Great Saturday afternoon for New York sports fans like me.  I got to watch the Rangers, a rare occurrence, since they were playing the Bruins.  Then, I was able to switch back and forth between the Rangers and the MLB Network for Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS.  That was followed by Game 5 of the NLCS, which I couldn't watch because the Jets were coming on.  (Though I snuck a look late to see if I could catch Hall of Famer Gary Carter's game-winning hit....there were commercial breaks in the Jets game about two minutes before and two minutes after the hit - I just missed it.)

*Lastly, I can't believe the stat NBC (terrible game by NBC's b-team, by the way - some technical errors, and Tom Hammond was bad) threw on at that start of the fourth quarter - the Jets have won 58 straight games when they lead by 8 or more in the fourth quarter (including the post-season...and 59 now), and that's the longest such current streak in the NFL.  I can't believe that - I feel like they've blown 58 such games in my lifetime.  Anyway, it's encouraging.  Good to know.

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