With rookies calling the shots at arguably the two most important positions on the team, first-year head coach Rex Ryan and untested QB Mark Sanchez proved that a little confidence goes a long way. Ryan’s brash style rubbed some the wrong way, but he backed up his bold talk with a 9-7 record and New York’s first trip to the conference championship since Bill Parcells’ 1998 Jets lost to the Broncos. Ryan’s vow to instill a hard-nosed football mentality into his players rang true from Day One, as they won games with the league’s top-ranked defense and No. 1 rushing attack.
Jets 24, Texans 7
The Jets set the bar for the season, holding Houston to just 183 yards of total offense while piling up 190 of their own on the ground. It was an impressive debut from Sanchez — 18-of-31 passing for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception — and the first of many shutdown games from All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, who held fellow All-Pro WR Andre Johnson to just 35 yards receiving.
Jets 16, Patriots 9
Jets NT Kris Jenkins declared the team would “be playing this game like it’s the Super Bowl,” and defense again reigned supreme for the Jets, who held the vaunted Patriots offense to its lowest point total of the year. Revis shined again, allowing WR Randy Moss to snag just four grabs for 24 yards.
Jets 24, Titans 17
Sanchez threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the first-round pick became the first rookie quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to win his first three games. New York held Titans RB Chris Johnson to one of his four under-100-yard rushing games of the season.
Saints 24, Jets 10
Sanchez upped his season turnover total to seven after this sloppy performance saw him throw three picks and lose one fumble, two of which went for touchdowns. Five New Orleans rushers combined for 153 yards and a score.
Dolphins 31, Jets 27
The Jets led 13-10 going into the half, but the “Wildcat” formation proved too much for New York. ’Fins RB Ronnie Brown took a direct snap two yards for the game-winning score with six seconds left to cap a wild 35-point fourth quarter. Braylon Edwards made his first catch as a Jet count, hauling in a three-yard touchdown.
Bills 16, Jets 13 (OT)
Welcome to the big leagues, rookie. Sanchez threw five interceptions in this one, and even though the Jets ran for an astounding 318 yards on 40 carries (8.0 average), they did not have the firepower to pull it out in overtime. PK Jay Feely set a franchise record with 24 straight successful field goals before pulling a 44-yarder in the second quarter.
Jets 38, Raiders 0
New York bounced back in a big way in this one, tallying its first shutout of the season behind a second straight incredible performance on the ground, notching 316 rushing yards on 54 tries (5.9 average) with four touchdowns. The defense forced four turnovers, and third-round rookie Shonn Greene broke out, carrying 19 times for 144 yards and two TDs.
Dolphins 30, Jets 25
Despite being outgained 378 to 104, the Dolphins found a way to win this one with the help of their special-teams unit. Ted Ginn, who was benched to start the game, responded with kick-return touchdowns of 100 and 101 yards. Sanchez threw for 265 yards, the second and final time he would break 250 yards in 2009.
Jaguars 24, Jets 22
Fantasy football GMs and Jets fans alike were cursing Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew after he took a knee on the one-yard line with 1:48 left in the game, allowing Jacksonville to kick a field goal as time expired to seal the victory in another close defeat for the Jets.
Patriots 31, Jets 14
After a promising start to the season, Jets fans were once again preparing for the worst after Sanchez turned the ball over five more times as New England handed the Jets their sixth loss in the last seven games. Though Revis again blanketed Moss, allowing just five catches for 34 yards and a touchdown, Wes Welker had a career day, hauling in 15 catches for 192 yards.
Jets 17, Panthers 6
Speaking of Revis, he had quite the impact in this matchup, helping limit QB Jake Delhomme to just 130 passing yards. Panthers 2008 Pro Bowl WR Steve Smith had just one catch for five yards, and the Jets had four picks, including two by Revis, one of which he took back 67 yards for a score.
Jets 19, Bills 13
In their second prime-time contest of the season, the Jets extinguished memories of their Week Five Monday-night loss behind another magnificent performance on the ground, pounding the Bills’ last-ranked run defense for 249 yards on 43 carries (5.8 average). Not surprisingly, Revis came up with the big play, intercepting a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass just before the two-minute warning that allowed New York to run out the clock.
Jets 26, Buccaneers 3
Backup QB Kellen Clemens got the start in this must-win game after Sanchez hurt his knee early in the third quarter against the Bills. But he needed only 12 completions, thanks to New York’s 175 yards on the ground and the lowly Bucs’ 124 yards of total offense, and the Jets kept their playoff hopes alive.
Falcons 10, Jets 7
“We’re obviously out of the playoffs, and that’s unfortunate,” said Ryan after this loss. Wrong he was, however, thanks to losses by the Jaguars and the Dolphins. New York’s 99 rushing yards marked just the second time all season the team was held below 100 yards.
Jets 29, Colts 15
In arguably the most controversial NFL game all season, the Colts subbed out their starters with the lead in the second half, scorning an attempt at a perfect season. Nonetheless, the Jets were the beneficiaries, and despite admittedly playing against “the Colts’ JV team,” Ryan’s squad kept its slim playoff hopes alive.
Jets 37, Bengals 0
The football gods were smiling on the Jets on this Sunday, as each and every scenario the team needed to play out did just that, allowing the Jets to capture a playoff berth by absolutely destroying the Bengals. To put it in perspective, Cincy had just 72 net yards — all on the ground.
Jets 24, Bengals 14
A Week 17 rematch saw largely the same result, as the Bengals passing game never got going despite a big day from RB Cedric Benson. Greene continued to show promise, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 21 carries as Revis once again shut down a top-notch wideout, corralling a pick in the process.
Jets 17, Chargers 14
Playing the underdog role so successfully as they had all season long, the Jets showed the football world they were for real with this victory over the heavily favored Bolts. Greene again wowed Jets fans, and Sanchez made few mistakes, while Chargers PK Nate Kaeding missed three field goals to snap San Diego’s 11-game winning streak.
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