CINCINNATI – With the kind of bravado only his father, Buddy Ryan, has matched over the last two-plus decades, Rex Ryan said his team should be favorites throughout the playoffs and then handed his players itineraries for the next month with plans that culminate in a parade Feb. 9, two days after Super Bowl XLIV.
Then, his Jets went out Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium and did something the elder Ryan never accomplished as a head coach – win a postseason game. The rookie coach with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez outclassed the Bengals, 24-14, in an AFC wild-card meeting to advance to the divisional round. It was their second victory over the Bengals in six days.
Even Broadway Joe Namath, the undisputed champion of underdog guarantees, scoffed at the notion the Jets should be favored. But, hey, Buddy Ryan was an assistant on that Super Bowl III team. Maybe it takes a Ryan to return the Jets to the sport’s grandest stage.
What the Jets also have is a young quarterback poised for success. Sanchez clearly outplayed his Bengals counterpart, Carson Palmer. Sanchez completed 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dustin Keller in the second quarter that put the Jets ahead for good 14-7. His passer rating was 139.4 and he looked nothing like the player who led the AFC with 20 interceptions.
“He just kept getting better as the season went along,” Ryan said. “I told him this was his second season now. His first season is over. This is the playoffs.
“He was on fire. The thing I was most impressed with was the confidence he had. He wanted this game in the worst way and one of these days he is going to be the biggest thing we have on this football team.”
Fellow rookie Shonn Greene rushed for 135 yards and scored on a 39-yard run and the Jets, who will visit the Colts or Chargers next week with the league’s top-ranked defense making them a formidable opponent.
With Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis limiting Chad Ochocinco to two catches for 28 yards and intercepting one pass intended for him, Palmer never found a groove. He completed 18 of 36 passes for 146 yards.
Cedric Benson rumbled for 169 yards, a Bengals’ playoff high, and scored on a 47-yard run to bring the Bengals within 21-14 early in the fourth quarter. But Bengals kicker Shayne Graham missed field goals from 35 and 28 yards and the Jets put the game away on Jay Feely’s 20-yard field goal.
Sanchez is in limited company now with Joe Flacco (Ravens), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) and Shaun King (Buccaneers) as rookies to win playoff starts.
“It just blows your mind,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I hope I have this feeling next week.”
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