Jets' defensive blueprint spurs big AFC upset

James C. Black
Yahoo! Sports
Jets' defensive blueprint spurs big AFC upset
Chargers WR Vincent Jackson goes up for a catch against Darrelle Revis. Revis intercepted the pass on a deflection

SAN DIEGO – Braylon Edwards(notes) knew that teammate Thomas Jones(notes) was engaged in a conversation. And he had a pretty good idea on the topic of discussion. But instead of allowing a relatively peaceful dialogue about the New York Jets' most recent accomplishments to continue, Edwards offered a loud interruption.

"I'm on to the next one, on to the next …," cranked from the audio system in Edwards' locker stall after the Jets pulled off the biggest upset of the 2010 playoffs so far with a 17-14 victory over the No. 2 seed San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

For Edwards, the Jay-Z track is more than a hit song: it's the team's theme.

"They keep doubting our abilities and things we can do," said Edwards, who finished with two catches for 41 yards. "… That's our whole mentality. We just keep doing our thing … We appreciate [the critics] saying we don't belong."

Yet, even after shutting down the AFC's highest-scoring team (28.4 points a game) and the NFL's hottest squad (winners of 11 straight going in) in San Diego, the Jets realize plenty doubters will remain as they prepare for the AFC title game against the No. 1 seed Indianapolis Colts next Sunday.

"We'll see what happens in the matchup that probably nobody wanted, but too bad," first-year Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Here we come!"

The Jets are going to Indy in large part because of the formula that carried them through the regular season and a wild-card upset of the Cincinnati Bengals: running the ball, great defense and timely plays in the passing game.

"The best offense in the world. We held them to 14. No one held them under 20," Jets safety Kerry Rhodes(notes) boasted.

New York can certainly thank Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding(notes), who reassumed goat status from the teams' playoff meeting from five seasons ago by missing three field goals on Sunday. But to boil down the Jets' victory to an opposing kicker's bad day would be an injustice.

"The defense … I mean, we leaned on them heavy all year and they didn't disappoint," said Mark Sanchez(notes), who joins the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco(notes) in becoming the only rookies to win two playoff games.

While there's plenty of praise to go around, Sanchez and another rookie, running back Shonn Greene, deserve their share. Greene ran for 128 yards on Sunday, including a 53-yard touchdown run that put the Jets up 17-7 with 7:17 left in the game. It was Greene's second straight 100-yard effort.

Meanwhile, the Jets' green signal-caller, deemed to be the team's weak spot heading into the postseason, was on the front end of the game's biggest play. With San Diego up 7-3 early in the fourth quarter, the Jets had third-and-goal from the Chargers' 2-yard line. Sanchez, who was sacked only once, scrambled to his right and surveyed the end zone without feeling significant pressure. As he continued to stroll toward the sideline, he found tight end Dustin Keller(notes) in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score.

"The route we had, Dustin Keller just improvised a little bit and I felt exactly what he was doing," said Sanchez, who was 12-of-23 for 100 yards with an interception. "We were just on the same page."

The Jets were in striking distance at that point only because of another strong outing from their stingy defense, which allowed Philip Rivers(notes) (27-for-40, 298 yards, 1 passing and 1 rushing TD, 2 INTs) and the Chargers to move the ball, but not light up the scoreboard.

San Diego, clearly knowledgeable of Darrelle Revis'(notes) whereabouts, spent a good part of the day staying away from New York's Pro Bowl cornerback. When Revis lined up opposite of Vincent Jackson(notes), the Chargers generally threw to tight end Antonio Gates(notes), Malcom Floyd(notes) or another wideout. When Revis covered one of San Diego's other targets or played deep in the team's zone, Jackson generally was targeted.

However, as was expected, the Chargers decided to test Revis. And as the Bengals' Carson Palmer(notes) did a week earlier in New York's wild-card win over the Bengals, San Diego paid.

On third-and-8 with 4:23 left in the third quarter, Rivers floated one up to Jackson. After a wild sequence in which both players hit the ground, Revis walked away with his eighth interception of the year.

"Oh man it was crazy. I saw the ball thrown up and I tried to make a play," Revis recounted. "And I saw Vincent try to cut in front of me to make the play. And I grabbed his hand a little bit so he couldn’t catch it. And as I’m going down I see the ball hit his foot and then it was in arms reach. And I decided to grab it.”

For Revis and the Jets, it was more than a pick. It helped set up an opportunity to work on a third blueprint to keep the team's Super Bowl XLIV dreams alive.