The New York Jets, without question, are an up-and-coming team with their above-average running game, their shut-down defense (especially their secondary) and a rising star in quarterback Mark Sanchez. All of those attributes would be put to the test as they visited Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game Sunday afternoon.
For about 27:49, it looked like the Jets had the Colts’ numbers as Sanchez had his way against the Colts’ secondary in the first half. All that did was wake the sleeping giant that is the Colts as they would score 24 unanswered points, capped by a 21-yard field goal by Matt Stover, ensuring Indianapolis’ second trip to the Super Bowl in four seasons as they throttled New York 30-17.
Sanchez got the proceedings started as he burned Colts rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey as he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards, giving the Jets a 7-0 lead; after the Colts cut it to 7-6, Brad Smith lined up in the Wildcat formation and threw a 45-yard strike to Jerricho Cotchery. Three plays later, Sanchez would connect with Dustin Keller for a 9-yard TD pass to make it 14-6 with 4:53 left in the first half. A Joseph Addai fumble would allow Jay Feely to connect on a 48-yard FG, giving New York a 17-6 lead, but MAnning connected with Austin Collie on a 16-yard TD pass, narrowing New York’s advantage to 17-13 going into halftime.
As has been Manning’s custom, he rallied the Colts back as he took the team down the field on an 8-play, 57-yard drive, capped by a Manning TD pass to Pierre Garcon in the back corner of the end zone, making it a 20-17 Indianapolis lead with 8:03 left in the third quarter. Manning would seal the deal when he connected on a 15-yard strike to Dallas Clark for the go-ahead and winning score midway through the final quarter.
Manning would have his usual stellar effort, going 26-of-39 for 377 yards with 3 TDs while Sanchez fared a bit worse, going 17-of-30 for 257 yards with 2 TDs and an interception. Addai led the Colts rushers with 80 yards on 16 carries while Donald Brown ran 6 times for 18 yards; Thomas Jones led the Jets rushing attack with 42 yards on 16 carries while Shonn Greene ran the ball 10 times for 41 yards.
Garcon led all Colts receivers with 11 receptions for 151 yards and a TD while Collie caught seven for 123 yards and a score; Reggie Wayne caught 3 passes for 55 yards. Jerricho Cotchery led the Jets with 5 receptions for 102 yards while Edwards caught a pair for 100 yards and a TD; Dustin Keller caught six for 63 yards and a score in a losing effort.
Indianapolis (16-2), with the win, go to their second Super Bowl in four seasons as they take on the winner of the Minnesota-New Orleans tilt at Miami’s Land Shark Stadium on February 7 while New York ends their Cinderella season 11-8.