Foxborough, Mass. Shonn Greene placed the ball on the ground and used it as a pillow, resting his head on it after scoring the Jets’ final touchdown of a stunning upset.
A quiet climax to a very loud week of non-stop jabbering, poking, berating, and then some, mostly by the New Yorkers.
On Sunday, they proved that they weren’t all talk — trash talk — after all.
Now Rex Ryan’s rowdy bunch is headed to its second straight AFC championship game after New York backed up its coach’s boasts with a 28-21 victory Sunday over the New England Patriots — the team with the best record in the NFL.
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes and the Jets sacked Tom Brady five times in the most-hyped of the weekend’s four postseason games following a week of verbal potshots from both teams.
“Maybe everybody else never believed, but we believed,” Ryan said. “We’re moving on. Same old Jets, back to the AFC championship. The only difference is this time we plan on winning.”
The Jets, who lost that game to Indianapolis last year, will try to win their third straight postseason game on the road, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, next Sunday. The Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens, 31-24, on Saturday.
Late in Sunday’s game, Ryan was true to his exuberant self. He ran down the sideline and celebrated with his players after Greene’s 16-yard score with 1:41 left. And, when the game was over, Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards did a backflip.
“We don’t care what people say or whether they like us,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We just focus on what we need to do to win games.”
New York led its fierce rival, 14-3, at halftime before Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler and Sammy Morris’ run for a two-point conversion made it 14-11 late in the third quarter. But Sanchez came right back with a seven-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes and New York finished the upset with Greene’s touchdown.
The Jets (13-5) kept Ryan’s prediction of a Super Bowl appearance alive. The Patriots (14-3) lost their third straight postseason game.
New York has a chance for its first Super Bowl berth since 1969 when another loudmouth, “Broadway Joe” Namath, backed up his guarantee with a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts.
Ryan has said many times that the Jets are a Super Bowl-caliber team, and has irritated fans, opposing players and media with his bold remarks. Last week he said the game was a contest between him and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Then, after Antonio Cromartie called Brady an expletive on Tuesday, Ryan said he wouldn’t punish his cornerback.
The ultra-serious Belichick wasn’t as kind to Wes Welker.
The wide receiver was benched for the Patriots first series for subtle remarks apparently directed at Ryan. Welker made several references to feet in his news conference Thursday, interpreted by some as a dig at recent foot-fetish reports involving Ryan.
“I didn’t think anything about it. I’m just waiting for the opportunity to go out and play,” Welker said. “I respect the New York Jets. I respect Rex Ryan.”
Belichick refused to comment on why Welker missed the first series.
When the game ended, Belichick walked slowly to midfield where he met Ryan, patted his conqueror on the back with his left hand and shared some words.
“We just didn’t do enough things well today,” Belichick said. “It’s obvious.”
Even after the game, the verbal shots kept coming.
“I’m not embarrassed. I’m just frustrated,” said Deion Branch, who scored the game’s last touchdown on a 13-yard pass with 24 seconds remaining. “The embarrassing part came from a few classless (Jets) guys after the game. There were a lot of classless things that went on after the game ended.”
“Didn’t you see it?” he said. “You’ve got to go back and watch it. Pretty classless stuff.”
Sanchez completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and touchdowns to LaDainian Tomlinson, Edwards and Holmes. Brady, who played poorly for his second straight postseason game, was 29-for-45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“Our expectations this season were very high,” Brady said. “Playoff football comes and really it comes down to who makes the plays, and we made too many mistakes.”
Now Sanchez gets a chance to beat one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks for the third straight week when he faces Ben Roethlisberger after knocking off Peyton Manning, who won the NFL’s last two MVP awards and Brady, who is a favorite to win his second in four years.
“He’s just now getting better and better and better,” Ryan said.
He wasn’t very good on Dec. 6 when the Patriots routed the Jets, 45-3. That didn’t matter Sunday.
“We don’t try to look back and try to fight history,” receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “We play in that moment. That’s what it was all about today — making today our day. “