What a difference 41 days makes.
Nearly six weeks after the Jets humbling 45–3 loss at New England, the New York Jets returned to the scene of the crime and shocked the NFL with a determined 28–21 win over the AFC East Champion and top seed in the conference New England Patriots.
“It was a team effort and we got it done today,” said Jets running back and twice-victimized-in-the-playoffs-by-the-Patriots LaDainian Tomlinson in an interview with CBS right after the game.
The Jets, using an array of different looks on defense, were able to frustrate and slow own the Patriots offense for most of the day in winning their fourth road playoff game during Rex Ryan’s short tenure at the Meadowlands.
If the final score was any indication of how well they played, the first quarter showed few hints that this game would turn out any differently than the last time they played.
Picking up right where they left off, the Jets punted after getting just one first down on their first possession of the game and then watched New England march 56 yards in seven plays, setting up a first and 10 at the Jets 28.
But, just as all the momentum was in the Patriots favor, the Jets defense struck back with a David Harris 58-yard interception return that took the Jets to the Patriots 12-yard line. The Jets offense, though, got nowhere in three plays and settled for a Nick Folk 30-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide of the uprights, keeping the game scoreless.
The Patriots took over and promptly drove 56 more yards on 11 plays, this time settling for a Shayne Graham 34-yard field goal as tight end Alge Crumpler dropped a sure touchdown catch on second down from the Jets 7-yard line.
After one quarter of play the Patriots had eight first downs and 112 yards to the Jets 2 and 36 respectively. They led 3–0, but the Jets had sacked Brady twice and forced his first interception since October.
Jets Key In
Starting with the second quarter, the Jets defense put the clamps on the Tom Brady and the Patriots offense as they generated only one first down in their four second quarter possessions.
Meanwhile, the Jets offense was able to find enough cracks in New England’s defense to take a 7–3 lead with 10:24 left in the first half as Sanchez calmed down enough to find Tomlinson for a 7-yard touchdown catch. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
About his touchdown catch Tomlinson said, "We had worked that play a lot, it didn’t matter to me where the ball was, I was going to make a play."
After the teams traded punts, the Patriots lined up to punt again, only to fake the snap to safety Pat Chung who fumbled the ball, recovered it, and was brought down for no gain. The Jets took over at the New England 37.
Four plays and 33 seconds later the Jets found the end zone as Braylon Edwards fought his way in for the score, giving the Jets a 14–3 lead going into halftime.
Brady found Crumpler for a touchdown, and after a successful two-point conversion, the Jets lead was cut to 14–11 with seconds left in the third quarter.
The Jets offense responded right away on the first play of the fourth quarter. Mark Sanchez found wide receiver Jericho Cotchery for a 58-yard pass that gave the Jets a first down at the New England 13-yard line.
Three plays later Santonio Holmes extended the Jets lead to 21–11 with his amazing over-the-shoulder touchdown catch, which brought back memories of his Super Bowl winning grab with the Steelers.
The now desperate New England offense started marching down the field and found themselves with a first down at the Jets 31-yard line before Shaun Ellis stopped Patriots running back Danny Woodhead for no gain.
Then Jets defensive tackle Sione Pouha sacked Tom Brady for one of five Jets sacks to force a third and long they wouldn’t convert.
The Jets, unable to gain a first down, punted it back to the Patriots’ Julian Edelman who returned it 41 yards to the Jets 43-yard line, setting a Shayne Graham 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-14 with 1:57 remaining.
The Patriots tried the onside kick right down the heart of the Jets hands team and, after a short scramble for the ball, Antonio Cromartie daringly picked it up and ran it 23 yard to the New England 25-yard line.
The Jets Shonn Greene ran it in two plays later giving the Jets a 28–14 lead and after a late Patriots touchdown and another similar unsuccessful onside kick the Jets ran out the clock and celebrated their 28–21 win.
Up next for the Jets is a rematch of their Week 15 matchup at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets won that encounter 22–17 against the mighty Steelers defense. The game will be played Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. EST.