The New York Jets have advanced to the AFC Championship after shocking the New England Patriots with a 28-21 upset victory on Jan. 16 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. New York (13-5) will now face the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field on Jan. 23 at 6:30 P.M for the conference title.

Rex Silences the Doubters
The Jets were 8 ½ point underdogs (sports betting wise) heading into Sunday’s AFC divisional round matchup against the Pats, but their head coach Rex Ryan never doubted his squad could knock off the NFL’s hottest team this season. He verbally challenged New England all last week with claims that his team would beat the Pats, and his players delivered on his promise by slowing down Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady just enough to steal the win. Brady finished the game with 299 passing yards and two touchdowns, but he also tossed his first interception since the first half of the regular season, was sacked four times and nearly gave up a costly fumble.

“Maybe everybody else never believed, but we believed,” Ryan said following the game. “We’re moving on. Same old Jets back to the AFC championship. The only difference is, we plan on winning this one.”

Sanchez Gets It Done
While Brady and the Pats failed to meet Super Bowl expectations, Jets’ second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez overachieved, passing for three touchdowns and no turnovers. Sanchez struggled to end the regular season, and had a subpar performance in the wild card round against the Indianapolis Colts last week. But he was nearly unstoppable Sunday as he hooked up with receivers Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and running back LaDainian Tomlinson for touchdown passes. Every time New England threatened the Jets’ lead, Sanchez responded with a scoring drive. It will be interesting to see how he performs next weekend against his toughest opponent so far this season, the Steelers’ vaunted defense.

Leave it to the Defense and Running Game
Although Sanchez made some big plays through the air, New York nevertheless won primarily because of their aggressive defense and hard-nose running game. They beat up on the Patriots’ offense, and then pounded away at New England’s defense with runs right up the gut with Tomlinson and fellow running back Shonn Greene. Tomlinson rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries, while Greene added 76 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. On defense, David Harris led the team with 9 tackles and a forced fumble, while star cornerback Darrell Revis patrolled the deep field with six tackles and several pass deflections.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor