New York Jets coach Rex Ryan outfoxed New England Patriots counterpart Bill Belichick with a defensive scheme that put his team on the brink of a Super Bowl with one more championship quarterback waiting in their path.
The Jets, who beat the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning 17-16 in the first round, stopped top seeds New England and Tom Brady 28-21 Sunday to set up an AFC Championship clash in Pittsburgh against the Steelers and signal caller Ben Roethlisberger.
With one ring for Manning, three Super Bowl rings for Brady and two for Roethlisberger, another win would cap a glittering treble and send the Jets to their first NFL title game since Joe Namath made good his guarantee of victory 42 years ago.
Ryan said in the build-up that it was him versus triple Super Bowl winner Belichick in the divisional round game, coming after last month's 45-3 humiliation to the Patriots.
I'll be the better coach on Sunday, the brash-talking Ryan predicted before taking on the 14-2 Pats. And he was.
Ryan, the defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens before taking his first head coaching job two years ago with the Jets, had earned a reputation for unnerving quarterbacks with a barrage of blitzes from all angles.
On Sunday, he put ego aside and befuddled Pro Bowler Brady by frequently playing his defenders back to stifle receivers, leaving the quarterback with no appealing targets.
Brady was sacked five times in the game, thrown for losses even when the Jets (11-5 in regular season) rushed only three men at him. Brady and receiver Wes Welker both praised Ryan and the Jets for mixing up their blitzes and coverages.
Ryan, with the unexpected victory tucked in his pocket, switched gears again when assessing the upset result.
I was dead wrong, Ryan said.
I thought it would come down to me and Belichick and thank goodness it never did because he won that battle like he always does. It came down to our players and it came down to the assistant coaches and we won that battle.
You can't just give them one thing all the time. Mix your coverages, mix your blitzes, mix your pressures. Against these great quarterbacks, that's what you have to do...against Peyton Manning at Indy and now Tom Brady at New England. Mission impossible. Now on to round three on mission impossible.
The Jets registered a 22-17 victory over the Steelers one month ago, their first ever win in Pittsburgh after seven defeats.
Now the New Yorkers aim for another triumph in Pittsburgh to book a trip to Dallas for the Super Bowl against the winner of next Sunday's NFC title game between the Chicago Bears and visiting Green Bay Packers.
The surprising Jets, whose fatalistic fans grew accustomed over the years to muttering 'Same old Jets' following a long string of disappointments, fell last year to the Colts at the penultimate hurdle.
Ryan has instilled confidence with his positive thinking.
We are moving on, same old Jets going to the AFC championship game two years in a row, crowed Ryan. Only difference is, we plan on winning this one.