Jets Fall To Manning’s Brilliance

Published on: 24th January, 2010

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Titans Colts Football
Jets Fall To Manning's Brilliance

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter of NFL football action in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)  | read this item

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Jets began the day 60 minutes away from their first Super Bowl in 41 years.

Then they found themselves a mere 30 tantalizing minutes away, leading the Colts 17-13 at halftime of today’s AFC Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium and feeling this was their destiny.

“Thirty minutes . . . so close yet so far,’’ Jets veteran right tackle Damien Woody lamented later in a quiet visiting locker room.

At the end of the day, though, close is all the Jets got to booking a trip to South Florida for Super Bowl XVIV, because they couldn’t stave off Peyton Manning and the Colts, who stormed to a 30-17 victory to get to their second Super Bowl in four years.

After the Jets had built a 17-6 lead, the Colts scored 24 unanswered points and crushed the Jets’ Super Bowl dream.

“We felt like we had the team to get to the Super Bowl,’’ Jets safety Jim Leonhard said. “When you come up short there are a lot of thoughts that go through your head.

“You could see all across this room, guys are like, ‘Where do we go from here? What do we do now?’ We feel like we’re ready to take that next step. We felt like we were ready this year. Maybe we weren’t. But we’ll prepare next season to take that next step.’’

All week, the Jets had visions dancing in their heads of confetti showering down on them. They got exactly that tonight. The problem was that it came two weeks too early. The confetti that streamed down onto the field today was blue and white, celebrating not the Super Bowl victory the Jets dreamed about, but a Colts AFC Championship title.

So the Colts, now 16-2, will be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 against the winner of the Saints-Vikings NFC Championship game.

The Colts won Super Bowl XLI in Miami, so they’re reaching for some good karma of their own. The Jets, who finished 11-8, go home bitterly disappointed, because they believed they were destined to win it all this year after having turned their season around from 4-6 and 7-7 to get to this game.

Also making this devastating was the fact that the Jets were close enough in this game to taste it. They took a 17-13 lead into halftime and were frustrating Manning (26-of-39, 377 yards, 3 TDs). 

They were even making big plays on offense, with Sanchez (17-of-30, 257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), bidding to become the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl, connecting with Braylon Edwards on an electric 80-yard TD pass in the first quarter and throwing another TD to Dustin Keller.

The end result, however, turned out to be too much like the often-tortured history of this franchise — a terrible tease. The Colts turned that 17-13 deficit into 17 consecutive second-half points on a Jets defense that hadn’t allowed more than 15 points in a game in their past four games, all wins.

The killer moment in the game came at the end of the second half, when, after the Jets took a 17-6 lead with 2:11 remaining on a Jay Feely 48-yard field goal. They allowed Manning, a two-minute-drill magician, to march the Colts 80 yards in 58 seconds and cut the lead to 17-13 at the half with a 16-yard scoring pass to Austin Collie.

Several Jets players, including Leonhard and Edwards, hinted that the Jets were rattled by the Colts’ late score at the end of the first half and that they didn’t react well to it in the second half. Edwards went as far to saw that the Jets “lacked’’ the same “fire’’ they had in the first half.

That took a lot of wind out of our sails,’’ Ryan said of that late Colts score. “To give up an easy score like that after we’d played so well was disheartening,’’ Leonhard said. “As much as it hurt us it helped them. You can’t give a team like that momentum.”

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