In the end, it had to come down to a foot, didn't it?
Rex Ryan knows what he likes in a woman and he knows what he likes in a man in a game against Peyton Manning in the playoffs. Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal with no time left on the clock sent the Jets forward to a showdown with the Patriots next Saturday in a game that will quickly replace Saturday night's contest as the biggest in the Rex Ryan era of Jets football.
For now, though, we celebrate what happened on Saturday night, starting with Mark Sanchez. The Jets quarterback completed only nine of his first 20 passes, including a back-breaking interception at the end of the first half, but he hit 9-of-11 down the stretch to help win his team the game. Those two incompletions weren't even his fault. Santonio Holmes dropped a would-be first down and Sanchez misfired on a deep ball to Braylon Edwards that didn't make much sense because it gave the ball back to Peyton Manning with plenty of time in the fourth quarter.
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It didn't wind up hurting that much, however, because of the job done by the Jets defense on a night when they absolutely refused to let Peyton Manning beat them. The Jets, defying everything Ryan has ever said, played passive and took away the passing game. They broke down once in the first half, but they were flawless in a second half that made the Colts change their own philosophy.
Manning audibled into running play after running play and, ultimately, called a perfect game against the two-deep defense that Ryan sent out against him. The only problem was that the perfect game Saturday night meant settling for plays that wouldn't put points on the board. He took few big shots and his last, on third down with a minute to play, fell incomplete. The Jets finished on Saturday, but Manning couldn't do the same.
The Jets had enough time to take a few shots down the field and one of them resulted in Braylon Edwards reeling in a pass deep down the sideline before Folk's kick changed the trajectory of New York football history.
Edwards's catch, a first down that will be passed down through generations, set up Folk's winning kick, but it hardly stands alone. It is alongside Antonio Cromartie, beaten for a touchdown in the first half and playing for an injured Brad Smith, taking a kickoff back into good field position. It stands next to Sanchez, coming off that miserable first half, stepping up and making the plays that he had to make and, of course, it is next to Folk, so shaky this season, making a kick that will get passed down through the ages.
For the first 30 minutes, it looked like the Jets were going to live down to the lowest expectations for their season. They were as undisciplined and as unsuccessful as at any point in thier topsy-turvy season. In the final 30 minutes, they found themselves and wound up with a win as monumental as any in franchise history.
The story of this entire Jets season was that it didn't matter what happened along the way as long as the Jets finished strong. They finished strong Saturday night and that's why we'll do it all over again in New England.