The Jets ended last season on Lucas Oil Field, one half away from just the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. It was a game that the upstart Jets weren’t supposed to be playing in.
Nearly a year later, the Jets have a chance to dash the Colts’ dreams on that same field in a game Indianapolis is fortunate to be in. The Colts earned the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs yesterday with a 23-20 win over the Titans and next weekend will host the No. 6 Jets, who battered the Bills 38-7 in a battle of backups.
“I don’t know if you can get more excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us, regardless of the fact that we’re playing Indy again,” Jets coach Rex Ryan. “I know one thing, we’re going to give them everything we have.”
And that’s something different than what the Jets brought in last January’s 30-17 loss in the AFC championship. The team spent all offseason recovering from a letdown second half where Peyton Manning and the Colts outscored them 17-0. So they drafted cornerback Kyle Wilson, signed safety Brodney Pool and added veteran sackmaster Jason Taylor in hopes of getting over the hump.
“It’s crazy how this game works,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “We’ve just got to go in and get a win.”
This whole offseason, Ryan spoke boldly about building on the loss and taking the next step forward. His team, despite a season of missteps and controversies, is back in the playoffs and improved on last year’s regular season mark by two wins.
But will it be enough?
Three weeks ago, following a poorly played and executed home loss to Miami, Ryan addressed the media as fans who surrounded the press conference room at field level booed and chanted for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to be fired. On Sunday, they cheered when Ryan filed into the media area and the always savvy coach played up to their warmth with words designed to elicit cheers.
But will the cheers still be ringing back in New York after the Jets walk off the field next weekend in Indianapolis?“Last season, we didn’t finish the year the way we wanted to – we went far, but we lost that last game out there,” said cornerback Marquice Cole, who had two interceptions against the Bills on Sunday. “This year, we feel like we have some unfinished business to take care of.”