Jets rally past Colts to win on field goal as time expires

Roderick Boone, Newsday (MCT)

INDIANAPOLIS — Rex Ryan finally got past his Kryptonite.

“I’m gonna say this,” Ryan told his players in the locker room. “Personally, finally got his — — .”

All thanks to Nick Folk. The kicker’s 32-yard field goal as time expired sent the Jets to an exhilarating 17-16 win over Peyton Manning and the Colts in an AFC wild-card matchup on Saturday night, setting up a date with the Patriots at 4:30 p.m. next Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.

Folk’s kick ended a wild game that featured three lead changes, including one that came seconds earlier. Manning drove the Colts 48 yards in eight plays and Adam Vinatieri nailed a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds left to put the Colts ahead 16-14.

“They left us entirely too much time on the clock,” wideout Santonio Holmes said. “He gave us an opportunity and my guy was calm in the pocket all game and stepped up and made his plays.”

Antonio Cromartie — who had been burned on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon that began the scoring — kick-started the winning drive by returning the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the Jets’ 46.

“I just went to (special teams coordinator Mike) Westhoff and was like, ‘Man, just let me get back there and just try to make a play,’ and guys went up there and did a heck of a job blocking and opening up and almost got down to the 50-yard line. So it gave us a short field.”

Mark Sanchez completed passes of 9 yards to Braylon Edwards and 11 yards to Santonio Holmes to move the ball to the Colts’ 34. Two plays later, Sanchez hit Edwards for 18 yards to the 14, and the Jets let the clock run down to three seconds before calling their final timeout and setting up the winner by Folk.

That play to Edwards was all Sanchez. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer gave the second-year quarterback the green light to go with the play he wanted.

“We just called one of plays that has plenty of options for us,” Sanchez said. “They gave us the right coverage for us to make a play and I missed him on a couple of balls earlier in the game and when we needed it the most, we got it. So Schotty gave me the freedom to do that. It was a big-time conversion and set us up for the field goal.”

Sanchez completed 18 of 31 passes for 189 yards. Manning completed 18 of 26 for 225 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and Shonn Greene added 70 yards on 19 carries for the Jets.

The Jets talked about trying to run the ball to control the clock and keep Manning off the field as much as possible, and they went more to that formula in the second half, gaining 95 yards on 25 carries. They finished with 169 yards on 38 carries.

The Jets took their first lead of the game with 9:59 remaining, going ahead 14-10 on Tomlinson’s second 1-yard touchdown run of the second half. The third-and-goal TD capped an impressive 17-play, 87-yard drive that burned 9:54 off the clock.

Indianapolis drove into the red zone on its ensuing possession, looking as if it might regain the lead. But on third-and-7 at the Jets’ 15 with just under five minutes remaining, curiously, the Colts went to the run and Dominic Rhodes gained only a yard, forcing the Colts to settle for a 32-yard field goal that made it 14-13 with 4:37 left.

The Jets then got a break when on fourth-and-5 from their 25, the Colts’ Taj Smith ran into punter Steve Weatherford. Four plays later, Weatherford punted from the Jets’ 35, giving the Colts the ball at their 20 with 2:36 remaining, and they drove to the go-ahead field goal.

Down 7-0 heading into the third quarter, the Jets responded with a much-needed scoring drive, aided by Cromartie’s 41-yard kickoff return to open the half. Tomlinson took the handoff from Sanchez on first-and-goal from the 1 and plowed into the end zone on second effort to tie it at 7.

The Colts regained a 10-7 lead on their ensuing possession on the strength of Vinatieri’s 47-yard field goal.

Indianapolis won the opening coin toss, electing to take the ball and go right at the Jets to see just how well all those offseason moves designed to strengthen the defense would work. But the Colts were stifled on their first three possessions, going three-and-out and getting thwarted on third-and-1 each time.

After failing to get much going on their first four possessions, Manning connected with Garcon for a 57-yard touchdown with 5:25 left in the second quarter. Facing a first-and-10 at the Colts’ 43, Manning hit a streaking Garcon, who initially beat Cromartie. Safety Brodney Pool was out of position, taking a bad angle toward the ball, and he couldn’t get back in time to help out Cromartie.

But judging from the fact that Ryan chewed out Cromartie on the sideline, it appeared as though it was Cromartie’s fault for not playing tighter coverage on Garcon, who simply darted down the seam and into the end zone, capping a five-play, 80-yard drive that took a mere 2:44.

The Jets had their chance to get right back into it on their final possession of the half. Beginning at their 21, they moved to the Colts’ 19. But Sanchez made a poor decision on third-and-10, rolling left to buy extra time and missing a wide-open Dustin Keller as he cut across the field from right to left. The pass floated high and was picked off by Justin Tryon at the goal line for a killer turnover.

“Our guys gave just an incredible effort,” Ryan said. “I challenged our guys, especially at halftime to come back in that locker room and be able to look each other in the eyes after that game, and (said) you’ll know and your teammates will know that you gave everything you had and it showed today.”

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