Jets kick Colts to the side as time expires
Sunday, January 9, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS - The New York Jets took a significant step toward living up to all that Super Bowl talk about them - and by them - entering the season. They slowed down quarterback Peyton Manning just enough and ended the season of the Indianapolis Colts with a 17-16 triumph Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in a first-round AFC playoff game.
Place kicker Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal as time expired won it for the Jets, who moved 40 yards in five plays in the game's final minute to get into position for Folk's kick.
A 50-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri had given the Colts a 16-14 lead with 53 seconds to play.
The sixth-seeded Jets advanced to a conference semifinal next weekend against the top-seeded New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. To do it, the Jets won a tense game against the team that knocked them from last season's playoffs.
Tailback LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns for the Jets after they went scoreless in the first half, squandering a scoring chance just before halftime with an interception thrown by quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The defense of Jets Coach Rex Ryan finally solved the passing of Manning, who threw a first-half touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon but couldn't get the third-seeded Colts in the end zone thereafter. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis kept Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne from being a factor in the game. The Colts could manage only three field goals by Vinatieri in the second half.
The Jets were returning to the site of last season's AFC title game, which they lost to the Colts after a surprising playoff run in Ryan's rookie season as an NFL head coach. Ryan and the Jets hadn't been shy since then about telling practically anyone willing to listen that they intended to go even further in the postseason this time around, and they managed to win 11 games during the regular season even while enduring a string of controversies and a stretch of disappointing December play.
Ryan-coached defenses had beaten Manning only once in six previous meetings, with that triumph coming when Colts Coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters from a game late last season to rest them for the playoffs rather than chasing an unbeaten record. But previous Manning-led teams usually were far more dominant than this version of the Colts. These Colts struggled at times during the regular season and needed to win their final four games to capture the AFC South title. They secured their record-tying ninth straight postseason appearance.
The Colts were running in place on offense in the game's early going. They failed to get a first down and punted on each of their first three possessions, failing on a third-and-one play each time. They finally got some first downs and even converted a third-and-one chance on their fourth drive of the night, but ended up punting again.
Sanchez and the Jets were faring no better on offense, though. Santonio Holmes nearly made a costly mistake on the Jets' first punt return, getting dangerously close to a rolling football before it was picked up by the Colts. The Colts claimed they should have been awarded possession because the ball allegedly touched Holmes. But the officials ruled otherwise, determining the ball never touched Holmes, and they didn't change the call after an instant replay challenge by Caldwell.
The Colts finally broke through in the second quarter. They got a first down on a three-yard run by tailback Dominic Rhodes on another third and one. On the next play, Garcon got open in the middle of the field against two Jets defenders, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Brodney Pool. Manning had plenty of time to throw and delivered an on-target pass. Garcon made the catch around the New York 20-yard line and out-sprinted Cromartie to the end zone from there for a 57-yard touchdown.
The Jets, after punting on four straight possessions, responded with a promising drive to the Indianapolis 19-yard line. But Sanchez threw first- and second-down passes over the head of tight end Dustin Keller for incompletions. The second-year quarterback passed the ball in Keller's direction again on third down, but had the throw intercepted at the goal line by Colts cornerback Justin Tryon.
The Jets regrouped at halftime, however, and crafted a tying touchdown drive to open the third quarter. They ran the ball effectively with Tomlinson and fellow tailback Shonn Greene, and Sanchez managed to contribute a 20-yard completion to Keller. Tomlinson got the touchdown with a one-yard, second-effort run.
Vinatieri connected from 47 yards to put the Colts back in front after the Jets made their fourth third-and-one stop of the evening, tackling Rhodes for a one-yard loss. The Jets then kept the ball for 17 plays and nearly 10 minutes, driving 87 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Tomlinson went into the end zone untouched for his second one-yard touchdown. But Sanchez also did his part, getting one key first down with an improvised flip of a pass to Tomlinson and another with a third-down run.
The Colts moved to the Jets 15 but had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Vinatieri with just more than 41/2 minutes to play. The Colts were left complaining about a would-be pass interference call that they didn't get late in the drive, and opted for a third-and-seven run by Rhodes that got only one yard.