View from New York: 'Same old Jets ... got a win'
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As he stood on the sideline in the final seconds watching quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drive the Steelers for the potential winning touchdown in the final seconds, New York tight end Dustin Keller felt pretty much the way every Jets fan felt at the time.
The Jets were up, 22-17, with only nine seconds to play, but Roethlisberger had the Steelers at the Jets 10. Still time for two shots at the end zone and send the Jets to their third consecutive loss.
Keller was freaking out. "You go through all the possibilities in your mind, and you don't know whether to be excited or to throw up," he said. "I was in between both."
So were Jets fans.
It wasn't until Roethlisberger missed a pass in the back of the end zone to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and then saw his final desperation pass go off the fingertips of tight end Matt Spaeth with no time remaining that Keller -- and every other Jets fan -- could finally exhale.
"We were just glad to get out of here with the win," Keller said. "If we'd have lost, that would have been a full-fledged throw-up."
Instead, the Jets upset the Steelers at Heinz Field, putting an end to a two-game losing streak that had threatened their playoff chances and temporarily removed their Super Bowl swagger that only two weeks earlier had reached a fever pitch.
After a humiliating 45-3 road loss to the Patriots two weeks ago and a desultory 10-6 home loss to the Dolphins followed by the Trip-gate controversy involving strength coach Sal Alosi, the Jets vanquished a Steelers team that has been close to unbeatable at home in the Roethlisberger era. They did it with a turnover-free offense that included the unit's first touchdown since Nov. 25 and a resilient defense that gave up more yards (378) than usual, but came through in the final moments.
Only one question left: Where the heck was this team the past two weeks?
"This football team is resilient," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "You guys get tired of it, but I don't care. This win may surprise a lot of people but it never surprised us. ... Same old Jets came down to Pittsburgh, got a win."
Ryan threw another jab at the Same Old Jets mantra that has seeped so deeply into the psyche of a franchise that has gotten so used to heartbreak. And why not? After all the losses, one more wrenching than the next, Ryan deserved a moment to rejoice in the win. Especially after delivering one of his most emotional speeches a night earlier, when he was close to tears in imploring his team to snap out of its two-game funk. Ryan actually called out his defense and his offensive line, according to two players, something almost unheard of from the usually positive coach.
"I'm not going to say who got called out, but sometimes you have to do that to make guys wake up and understand they've got to compete at all times," cornerback Darrelle Revis said, who said the coach's eyes were watery during the speech.
And the results were just as impressive as last year's tear-filled speech, which sparked an eventual playoff run. This time, looking more like the Super Bowl contenders they had claimed to be since training camp, they went toe to toe against a very good Steelers team, albeit a team without two of its most important players, safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller.
"We were sinking," linebacker Bart Scott said. "We went from fighting for the best record in the league to possibly fighting for the playoffs if we lose this game."
Instead, the Jets are in terrific shape to make the playoffs. At 10-4, the bottom would have to fall out, and just about every playoff permutation would have to go against them. But if they play like this against the Bears and Bills, they will clinch a playoff berth on their own.
First Published December 20, 2010 12:00 am