INDIANAPOLIS (Sports Network) – Nick Folk booted a 32-yard field goal on the game’s final play, lifting the New York Jets to a dramatic 17-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Wild Card contest.
The Colts, who beat the Jets in the conference title game a year ago before losing to New Orleans in the Super Bowl, seemed to have the upper hand again as Peyton Manning and Co. were about to knock New York out of the playoffs for a second straight year.
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds left, giving Indy the lead, but Mark Sanchez led the Jets on a five-play, 40-yard march after Antonio Cromartie returned the kickoff 47 yards. Braylon Edwards made a leaping 18-yard catch along the right sideline to move the ball to the 14, and the Jets called a timeout with three seconds left to set up Folk’s winning kick.
The sixth-seeded Jets moved on to face the top-seeded New England Patriots next Sunday afternoon.
“The guys just gave an incredible effort,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “I challenged our guys, especially at halftime, to be able to look each other in the eyes after the game, [to] know that you gave everything you had. That’s what we showed today.”
Sanchez completed 18-of-31 passes for 189 yards and was picked off once, while LaDainian Tomlinson gained 82 yards and scored twice on 16 carries.
Manning ended 18-of-26 for 225 yards with a TD for the AFC South champions, who made the playoffs for a ninth straight year by virtue of locking up the division title the final weekend of the regular season. Pierre Garcon caught five passes for 112 yards with a TD, while Joseph Addai rushed for 60 yards in defeat, Indy’s first wild card home loss in franchise history.
Reggie Wayne, who was third in the NFL in receiving yards during the regular season, was held to one catch for one yard.
“It’s certainly disappointing tonight,” Manning said. “I think at some point we’ll sit back and reflect on the entire season, but it’s disappointing in the way we lost the game tonight. Anytime you lose on a last-second field goal in a playoff game it certainly stings.”
The teams combined for 16 points in the final quarter
Tomlinson accounted for the go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard run with barely under 10 minutes left. His plunge into the end zone capped a 17-play, 87-yard drive that ate up nearly 10 minutes, giving New York a 14-10 lead. Sanchez completed all five of his passes during the march and the Jets converted a pair of third downs, one a Sanchez scramble, leading up to the 3rd-and-goal TD run.
“Anytime you keep our offense off the field, it kind of hurts us,” Addai said. “They did a great job at running the ball and doing some things to keep us off the field. It was kind of hard to watch them on the field and doing some things and us just sitting on the sidelines.”
Manning then engineered a Colts drive down the field, converting a 3rd-and-8 with an 21-yard strike to Garcon, moving the ball to the New York 18. Vinatieri later connected from 32 yards away with 4:37 remaining.
Instead of forcing a three-and-out, Indy’s Taj Smith ran into Jets punter Steve Weatherford, giving New York a first down and an opportunity to possibly run out the clock. The Colts, though, were fortunate when Sanchez’s deep ball to Edwards fell incomplete on the next third down.
The Colts got the ball at their 20 following a New York punt and Manning completed a pair of quick passes to tight end Jacob Tamme, of 15 and 11 yards. A 12-yard connection to Blair White advanced the ball to the New York 36, but Manning’s third-down pass to White was low and Vinatieri gave Indy the lead, only to have the Jets come back one last time.
On New York’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, Sanchez completed a pass to Edwards, who recovered his own fumble on a nine-yard play that moved the ball to the Indy 45. An 11-yard strike to Santonio Holmes followed, and after a short Tomlinson run, on the final play before the field goal, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer gave Sanchez free reign.
“He pretty much said call whatever you want,” Sanchez said. “We talked about a lot of different plays and I think he had an idea. There were a few plays I liked and I went with the one I felt most comfortable with and gave Braylon a chance.”
On that play, Edwards leaped to grab the ball in front of defensive back Jacob Lacy to set up Folk’s winning kick.
The first half featured plenty of punts, although Colts coach Jim Caldwell brought out the red challenge flag just 1:31 into the game and it cost his team a timeout. Holmes called for a fair catch on a punt return, but let the ball roll through his legs before he was blocked by a trio of Indianapolis players. Caldwell challenged that Holmes touched the ball first before the Colts recovered at the New York 27. However, the Jets were given possession, as was ruled on the field.
Manning finally broke the scoreless stalemate with a 57-yard connection to Garcon with 5:25 left in the second quarter.
Sanchez, in an attempt to tie the game in the closing minute of the half, threw to Dustin Keller near the goal line, but Justin Tryon came up with the interception.
Tomlinson capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive to start the second half with a one- yard TD run before Vinatieri split the uprights with under five minutes left in the third, leaving the Colts with a 10-7 edge.
The Jets beat the Patriots at New Meadowlands Stadium early in the season, but were annihilated, 45-3, in Foxboro on December 6. This will be the third playoff meeting between these AFC East rivals with the Patriots winning in 1985 in a Wild Card game (26-14) and by a 37-16 score in January 2007…Dominic Rhodes rushed 14 times for 33 yards for the Colts, while Shonn Greene gained 70 yards on 19 carries for the Jets.