Brien’s Field Goal Miscues End Jets Season
Ouch! This one will sting awhile for Gang Green and their fans. Two chances in the last five minutes of regulation to win the game outright and two missed opportunities. K Doug Brien’s clanker off the goal post and his hook shot was an all too familiar seen for New York. A long winter of “what might have been” lies ahead for the boys in green but for the remaining four teams, the march towards Jacksonville continues…
New York Jets
Passing Offense (B-) – His numbers weren’t bad, but these are the types of games where QB Chad Pennington needs to prove his worth. Unfortunately for New York, he failed to come through. Although Pennington threw for 182 yards on 21-of-33 passing, he was not able to get the Jets into the endzone and averaged just 5.5 yards per pass attempt. WR Justin McCareins, who quietly turned up his game the last part of the season, led the team with five receptions for 82 yards.
Rushing Offense (B-) – The Jets could have used a monster showing from their running game, but the Pittsburgh defense held New York largely at bay. RB Curtis Martin ran for 77 yards on 19 carries but back-up RB LaMont Jordan, a much more powerful runner, had only five touches for 30 yards.
Passing Defense (B+) – Whether his thumb was bothering him or he had the rookie jitters, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger looked lost at times in his first-ever playoff game. The brash youngster completed 17-of-30 passes for 181 yards and one score, but he was intercepted twice and nearly cost his team the game with his second pick late in the fourth quarter. WR Hines Ward led all receivers with 10 catches for 101 yards and one TD.
Rushing Defense (D) – Can’t blame this too much on the Jets. Playing their third consecutive overtime game, the “D” was bound to falter some, and it did. With a fresh tandem of Duce Staley (11 carries, 54 yards) and Jerome Bettis (27 carries, 101 yards, 1 TD), the Steelers physical backs wore down New York’s defense. As a team, Pittsburgh rushed for 193 yards on a previously stingy run defense. Jets rookie LB Jonathan Vilma continued to shine, leading both teams with 17 tackles.
Special Teams (C+) – Sorry Jet fans, had to put this in. A punt return for a TD and two botched field goals. That about sums up Gang Green’s offense. K Doug Brien’s two late misses on 43 and 47-yard attempts gave Pittsburgh new life and once OT hit, it was only a matter of time before the Jets “D” tired out. KR Santana Moss had a huge 75-yard punt return for a touchdown that tied the game at 10 after New York trailed early.
A final overall record of 11-7 is not too shabby but the specter of what might have been will haunt the Jets and their fans all spring and summer. New York was 47 and 43 yards away from the AFC Championship Game but as is the case so often, found a way to lose. The next few weeks will not be easy but as fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say, “Wait ‘til next year!
NFC Championship Game
This should be a good one, but if the weather forecast proves correct, the game could be played in sloppy conditions. This would obviously help the Eagles tremendously as Falcons QB Michael Vick would be much less mobile on a slippery field. After showing no rust in last week’s thrashing of the Vikes, Philadelphia returns to its fourth straight NFC Championship game with a mountain of pressure. The experience factor and the leadership, not to mention the talent, of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb will be the difference…
Prediction: PHI 24, ATL 21
AFC Championship Game
After hearing all week how the Colts would run over their depleted defense (me included), the defending champion Pats put on a clinic and showed why they remain the team to beat in the NFL. The Steelers may be riding a 15-game winning streak, but they barely escaped the jaws of defeat against the Jets. QB Ben Roethlisberger will have to step up big time in order for Pittsburgh to advance to its first Super Bowl in 10 years. My advice? Don’t bet against the reigning champs…
Prediction: NE 17, PIT 14.