We've all seen the movie a million times. The hero arrests the heinous villain instead of killing him, which naturally leads to the villain's escape from prison and great hardship to the hero's family. Or the villain chats and chats with the hero while he has him tied up, leading to the revelation of his plan and its failure once the hero escapes. The Indianapolis Colts are learning the same lesson as those characters right now: Kill your enemy when you have the chance.
That fateful day in December when the Colts spat on football history and sent Curtis Painter in to hand a game over to the Jets now looms as one of the biggest in this NFL season. If the Colts played to win, the Jets probably don't make the playoffs and Philip Rivers's reputation has a little less tarnish on it. But they did and the Jets won and here we are for all the marbles.
Some members of the Jets and a goodly number of their fans felt disrespected by the assertion that the Colts would have won the game if they hadn't started playing a lineup of guys culled from a Home Depot just before kickoff. Maybe the Jets could have pulled the upset, but it doesn't much matter now. There's another chance to prove it and, all things considered, this Jets team has a lot better chance to do it than the previous one.
In Week 16, Shonn Greene was a rookie backing up Thomas Jones. He's still a rookie, but now he's one that breaks big runs every week and refuses to go down without gaining yardage. Rex Ryan was just a braggart in Week 16, now he's the most honest football voice in the country. The biggest difference, though, is Mark Sanchez.
Against the Colts and across the second half of the season, all Sanchez was asked to do was not make mistakes. That worked out well enough, but what we've seen the last two weeks is something else. We've seen a quarterback in a position where he has to make plays and he's made them. Everything about the throw to Dustin Keller for the first Jets touchdown Sunday, from the seemingly endless rollout to the strength it took to get the ball home, was special. And his throw to Jerricho Cotchery on the next drive, just before Greene set a new Jets playoff record with his 53-yard touchdown run, zipped through two defenders to convert a third down.
Poise? Absolutely, but that's just the start of the story. Sanchez has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two weeks, and the Colts deserve a thank you card for allowing that to happen. As luck would have it, Sanchez can deliver it in person on Sunday.