FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - So the Jets weren't all talk after all.
Now Rex Ryan’s rowdy bunch is headed to its second straight AFC Championship Game after New York backed up its coach’s boasts with a 28-21 win Sunday over the New England Patriots – the team with the best record in the regular season.
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes and the Jets sacked Tom Brady five times in the most-hyped of the weekend’s four postseason games following a week of verbal potshots from both teams.
New York led its fierce rival 14-3 at halftime before Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler and Sammy Morris’ run for a 2-point conversion made it 14-11 late in the third quarter. But Sanchez came right back with a 7-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes and New York finished the upset with Shonn Greene’s 16-yard touchdown run.
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The Jets (13-5) kept Ryan’s prediction of a Super Bowl appearance alive. The Patriots (14-3) lost their third straight postseason game.
“Maybe everybody else never believed, but we believed,” Ryan said. “We’re moving on. Same old Jets, back to the AFC championship. The only difference is this time we plan on winning.”
The Jets lost last season to Indianapolis, 30-17, but now have another chance for their first Super Bowl berth since 1969 when another loudmouth, “Broadway Joe” Namath, backed up his guarantee with a 16-9 win over the Baltimore Colts.
Ryan has said many times that the Jets are a Super Bowl-caliber team, and has irritated fans, opposing players and media with his bold remarks. Last week he said the game was a contest between him and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Then, after Antonio Cromartie called Brady an expletive on Tuesday, Ryan said he wouldn’t punish his cornerback.
The ultra-serious Belichick wasn’t as kind to Wes Welker.
The wide receiver was benched for the first series for remarks apparently directed at Ryan. Welker made several references to feet in his news conference Thursday, interpreted by some as a dig at recent foot-fetish reports involving Ryan.
When the game ended, Belichick walked slowly to midfield where he met Ryan, patted his conqueror on the back with his left hand and shared some words.
“We just didn’t do enough things well today,” Belichick said. “It’s obvious.”
Sanchez completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and touchdowns to LaDainian Tomlinson, Braylon Edwards and Holmes.
Brady, who played poorly for his second straight postseason game, was 29-for-45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“I don’t even know what to say right now,” Tomlinson said. “What an unbelievable win for our team.”
After Greene scored the Jets last touchdown, he put the ball on the ground like a pillow and rested his head on it. A quiet climax to a loud week.