Colts Beat Jets In AFC Championship, On Their Way To Miami For Super Bowl XLIV

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Colts 30, Jets 17: Manning Leads Indy AFC Championship, Super Bowl XLIV Berth

Your team is going to he Super Bowl! Read more about it at our Colts blog, Stampede Blue. For Jets fans, it was a fun ride while it lasted -- share your anguish at our Jets blog, Gang Green Nation

Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes in the second half and the Indianapolis Colts punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIV with a 30-17 win over Mark Sanchez and the upstart New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts are now in the Super Bowl for the second time in the past four years as the franchise is looking to win its third Super Bowl. In the 2006 season, the Colts defeated the Bears, 29-17, while the Baltimore Colts took a 16-13 decision over the Dallas Cowboys following the 1970 season.

Indianapolis will play the winner of today's NFC title game between Minnesota and New Orleans. The Super Bowl will be in two weeks in Miami.

The win is also revenge on two counts for Indianapolis as the team avenged a 16-7 loss to the Joe Namath and the underdog Jets in Super Bowl III and got payback for New York spoiling Indianapolis' bid for a perfect season in a Week 16, 29-15 loss in Indianapolis.

Manning finished the game 26-for-39 with 377 yards and three touchdowns while Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie all caught scores for the Colts, who defeated the Jets for the first time in the postseason as the team also dropped a 41-0 decision to New York in a 2002 AFC first-round game.

Garcon had 11 catches for 151 yards, Collie made seven receptions for 123 yards and Joseph Addai had 16 carries for 80 yards in the win. Matt Stover was 3-for-3 on field goals and also hit all three extra points.

Sanchez had a good game in his third postseason start as he went 17-for-30 with 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards each catching a score.

However, it wasn't enough for the Cinderella-story Jets as the team saw their bid for their first Super Bowl appearance since the win over Baltimore in 1971 fall one-game short.

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Manning And The Offense Start Clicking, Colts Go Up Double Digits

You know an offense is clicking when you think, “whatever happens here, I don’t see the defense stopping them.” That’s Indianapolis right now. It’s less a question of whether the Jets can stop Peyton Manning and the Colts passing attack; the only suspense is whether the Colts will complete a 6, 10, or 15 yard pass.

That’s the way the last drive went, anyway. Going 80 yards down the field, Manning hit over and over and over again—on slants, fades, and then right down the seam, to a wide open Dallas Clark for a 15-yard touchdown. The game’s not over yet, but when Manning’s playing like that, you’re not going to beat him. Sorry, Sanchize.

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More Improbable: A Perfect Pass From Mark Sanchez, Or That Braylon Edwards Caught It?

Just when it looked like the Colts were about to hit their stride… After a Colts field goal put the first points on the board on the preceding drive, New York trotted out for the obligatory three-and-out, after which, Peyton Manning would surely connect with Reggie Wayne on a back-breaking 60-yard touchdown.

Except… Not so fast. Mark Sanchez faked to Shonn Greene on a play-action pass, pump faked Indy’s superstar Dwight Freeney, and hit for an off-balance, 40-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards. And unlike literally HUNDREDS of other times throughout his career, Edwards actually caught it, and took it the distance for an 80-yard touchdown. Can the Jets win this?

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It's The Postseason, Remember? Your Kicker Definitely Sucks

Well, you have to admit… The Jets looked pretty decent on their first offensive series. That’s the greatest variable in all of this—whether the Jets can mount a serious attack on offense—and at least on the first series, Mark Sanchez and co. looked pretty competent, notching a few first downs, and getting into field goal range.

But that means nothing, of course. Haven’t you heard? NOBODY makes field goals in the postseason. From Yahoo! Sports’ Shutdown Corner:

Kickers are making 57.7 percent of their attempts in the playoffs, down from 81.3 percent in the regular season. That’s a remarkable plummet. The stock market looks at that drop and says, “Wow, that’s harsh.” So far, the field goal percentage of all kickers in the playoffs is worse than that of the worst team in the regular season.

The Tampa Bay Bucs made 16-of-26 field goal attempts this season. Right now, playoff kickers are 15-of-26.

It’s not just that a bad batch of field goal kickers made it to the playoffs, either. I checked. As it turns out, it’s a better than average group of field goal kickers. Again, the entire NFL converted 81.3 percent of all field goals this year, and the gentlemen who kicked into the postseason made 85.2 of their field goals.

And today, Jay Feely continued the trend. Despite a perfect set-up from the shaky Jets offense, Feely’s 44-yard field goal sailed wide, and the Jets’ surprise drive yielded nothing.

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And Colts Fans, Here Is Your Live Game Thread

If you're a Colts fan, head on over to our Colts blog, Stampede Blue. They have a game thread up and ready to go. Discuss! Argue! Demonstrate! Complain! Debate! Complain some more!

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Jets Fans, Here Is Your Live Game Thread

Our Jets blog, Gang Green Nation, has a live game thread set up for you. Fans are already starting a ruckus in there. If you're a Jets fan, or just a fan who has the compulsive desire to talk about football, get in there.

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Gang Green Nation: Run To Set Up The Pass

We know the story, the Jets are a run-heavy team that plays great defense in order to protect rookie QB Mark Sanchez. So far in the playoffs, it’s worked. The Jets defense was able to contain the high-powered Chargers offense and score just enough to win. Now, they face the most prolific QB of the past decade, Peyton Manning. It’s likely the Colts will score at home, so the Jets offense will need to keep pace. How do you do that? Run the ball to set up the pass.

From Gang Green Nation:

The Jets do not want Mark Sanchez to have to carry the load. He’s going to have to make plays. The run game can make life easier on him. If Gang Green can pound it on Indianapolis’ small front, we could see situations like in the Wild Card round where receivers ran wide open on play action because the Bengals had to sell out on the run. That would make life easy on Sanchez. He’ll have to make plays one way or another. The Jets may have a great defense, but it’s next to impossible to beat the Colts in Indianapolis without the offense putting up points or making any big plays in the passing game.

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Stampede Blue: AFC Championship Q&A

We sent over some questions about the AFC Championship game and the Indianapolis Colts to Stampede Blue – see the results below.

What weakness of the Jets are the Colts going to exploit?

Probably inexperience and sub par play of the Jets passing attack. While Mark Sanchez has not gone out there and thrown the “killer” INT in the two Jets playoff wins, he has not played all that well either. The Colts will look to stop the Jets ground game and force Mark Sanchez to throw from the pocket.

What weakness on the Colts will the Jets go after?

The Jets will likely attack the Colts inability to create a consistent ground game. Against the Ravens, who run a very similar defense to the Jets, the Colts ran the ball for only 42 yards and averaged 1.7 yards a rush. They were able to convert key third downs passing, and Peyton Manning was able to attack weaknesses in the Ravens secondary. The Jets will likely look to do the same thing against the Colts, but attempt to limit Manning.

Evaluate the Colts head coach (and staff) in terms of being ready for a playoff game like this.

During the preparation leading up to the Ravens game, no one coaching staff had more pressure on them to win than Jim Caldwell and his group. The Colts had rested starters down the stretch in the regular season, and such a formula has often been unsuccessful. Against the Ravens, the Colts bucked that trend. Jim Caldwell used the time to keep his players fresh, and when they did practice he made the #1 offense practice against the #1 defense. This is something rarely done during the regular season and even rarer in the playoffs. So, for this upcoming AFCCG, I think Caldwell will have his men ready and focused.

Give us a ‘surprise’ player who could be a star on Sunday.

Pierre Garcon starts at WR alongside Reggie Wayne. Wayne is the Colts best receiver, and he will likely have a battle royale lasting all afternoon with the outstanding Darrelle Revis. The Jets will likely shift their coverages to limit Wayne and Dallas Clark. This means possible one-on-one opportunities that young, second-year player Pierre Garcon could take advantage of. Garcon has had a heavy heart of late, worrying about whether friends and relatives in Haiti after the earthquake.

Visit Stampede Blue to keep up with the Colts.

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Gang Green Nation: AFC Championship Q&A

We sent over some questions about the AFC Championship game and the New York Jets to Gang Green Nation – see the results below.

What weakness of the Colts are the Jets going to exploit?

The Colts are small up front defensively. They gave up over 125 yards on the ground during the regular season. The Jets have one of the most physical offensive lines in the game and a power back, Shonn Greene, who has broken out in the Playoffs. The Jets are going to pound it and try to control the clock.

What weakness on the Jets will the Colts go after?

The answer is always the rookie quarterback for the Jets. No matter how well the Jets run it, they aren’t going to win in Indianapolis unless Mark Sanchez makes a few plays. Gang Green may have a great defense, but Peyton Manning will put up points. Sanchez has only one turnover in the past four games, but fans surely will flash back to the middle of the season when Mark was giving the ball away like it was candy. The Colts have two excellent pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis who look to strip the ball whenever possible. If Sanchez gives the ball away even once, it may be too much for the Jets to overcome.


Evaluate the Jets head coach (and staff) in terms of being ready for a playoff game like this.

I think Rex Ryan is one of the best X’s and O’s guys in the business. With that said, I think the most important thing he has going for him is the confidence he’s instilled in his players. It’s been talked about to death in the media. He believes in his guys. His guys believe in him. This Jets team is showing up in Indianapolis expecting to win. After a pair of road Playoff wins, it would be human nature for a team to feel like it’s playing with house money, particularly with a rookie quarterback. That’s not the case in New York.

Give us a ‘surprise’ player who could be a star on Sunday.

Dustin Keller. He had a disappointing regular season, but he’s caught the touchdown catch that put the Jets ahead for good in the first two Playoff games. This game is a homecoming for him. He played his college ball at Purdue. You need to score touchdowns in the red zone when Peyton Manning is the other quarterback. I’m sure we’ll see the Jets look to the tight end in scoring position.

Finish this statement: If we don’t win this game I’ll…

Be very proud of my team. The Jets had a great season and silenced a ton of doubters. They have a great young core and are set up to be back in this game for years to come. With that said, you can only rationalize a loss to a certain degree. No Jets fan under 41 can say they were alive for a Super Bowl featuring our team. These opportunities come along rarely so a loss would be a bitter disappointment.

Prediction.

My head tells me beating the best player in the league in his building will be very difficult. The offense will have to control the ball on the ground to limit the time Peyton Manning has with it. The defense will have to play a terrific game. The secondary has to hold firm against an explosive passing game. The Jets may need a nonoffensive touchdown on either a Brad Smith return or a turnover.

The Jets actually have the right players to make all of this happen. My heart tells me it does, and Gang Green pulls a 20-17 upset.

Visit Gang Green Nation for your daily Jets fix.

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Gang Green Nation: Memory Jolt About Week 16

The Week 16 battle between the Jets and the Colts has assumed a prominent place in the narrative about this weekend’s AFC Championship. The Colts passed on a perfect season, raising the ire of fans and media alike, while simultaneously ratcheting up the pressure to go all the way and hoist the Lombardi. On the Jets side of things, some have credited that game with getting Mark Sanchez out of his mid-season funk and finally figuring out his role in the Jets offense.

What’s often lost in all this is the game itself. The Colts didn’t pull their starters until midway through the 3rd quarter. So what happened when everybody was playing for both teams? A competitive game, reports Gang Green Nation:

The score was 15-10 when starters exited for Indianapolis. Let’s think that through. The difference was less than a touchdown. Also think about how the Jets’ defense hung with Indy’s offense. The Colts only scored 15 points in two and a half quarters. That’s pretty good against the best quarterback in football.

Consider something else. 6 of those 15 points were scored on a drive where the Jets made a fourth down stop. Bart Scott got a personal foul called on him to extend it. Take away that error, and the Jets held the Colts to 9 points in those three and a half quarters.

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Stampede Blue: Replicating Last Week's Defense

Sure, Peyton Manning and his offensive cohorts receive the lion’s share of the praise when discussing the Indianapolis Colts, and rightly so. But last week, it was the Colts defense that put on a show, holding the Ravens to a FG. The Colts have owned the Ravens recently, and the Colts defense has been especially tough on them. Stampede Blue reports:

The Colts have now gone 3 straight games against the Ravens without allowing a Touchdown. Pretty awesome. They’ve also gone 2 straight Playoff games against the Ravens without allowing a Touchdown.

That was the Ravens, does it matter this week? It could, since philosophically the Ravens and the Jets are very similar teams. Not necessarily schematically, but their strengths and weaknesses are similar.

Consider:

Offense rankings:
Yds/game: Ravens 13th, Jets 20th
Pass yds/game: Ravens 18th, Jets 31st
Rush yds/game: Jets 1st, Ravens 5th

Defense rankings:
Yds/game: Jets 1st, Ravens 3rd
Pass yds/game: Jets 1st, Ravens 8th
Rush yds/game: Ravens 5th, Jets 8th

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