They weren’t supposed to be here, their detractors said.
It was a forgone conclusion that the New York Jets would be cleaning out their lockers on Monday, talking about how valiantly they’d fought the New England Patriots, but how they'd ultimately come up short in the end.
Yet, after an improbable 28-21 victory over the Patriots Sunday afternoon, here they are, still standing, one win away from earning a trip to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV.
“It means a lot,” nickelback Drew Coleman said. “We’ve not been the most liked organization, but one thing we are is hungry for that championship. We’re determined to get it. And we’re going through all obstacles for it. We fought in Indy, we fought in New England, and like I said earlier, we’ve got another impossible mission in Pittsburgh and hopefully we'll get another victory.”
“It’s fantastic,” center Nick Mangold said. “It’s a great accomplishment to be able to go to the AFC Championship game again. But at the same time, our goal wasn’t just to get to the AFC Championship game, it was to get to the Super Bowl. So I think guys understand that and are ready to work to accomplish that goal.”
It might not be personal this time, but that hasn’t hindered the Jets’ confidence at all. In each of the past two weeks against the Indianapolis Colts and the Patriots in the playoffs, they’ve thrown down the gauntlet, risen to the occasion and defied all odds. They're on a mission, a mission to win the franchise's first Super Bowl since 1969. And nothing. Not Peyton Manning. Not even Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have stood in their way of accomplishing that mission thus far.
“No [I’m not surprised we’re still here],” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “Because the 53 guys in here knew that we weren’t packing up today. And the guys in the front office, the coaches, they knew we weren’t cleaning up. A lot of people say where’s that confidence from? We knew we weren’t gonna pack up because our confidence comes from what we put into the bank. And obviously, through the weeks of preparation, we’ve put a lot into the bank. We were able to cash out in a big way on Sunday, and it showed.”
The question then becomes, do the Jets have anything left in their account for Mission Impossible III? Going up into a hostile environment in Pittsburgh and knocking off another future Hall of Fame Super Bowl winning quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger?
“It’s time to open a new account and be able to make deposits there with preparation this week,” Pouha said. “The New England account has been spent, so we’ve got to open another one for Pittsburgh.”
They’re confident that they can take care of business, because, as Mangold said, when it comes down to it, they trust each other. And that aforementioned unwavering confidence hasn’t let them down either.
“We have a whole bunch of guys in this locker room that care about each other,” Mangold said. “And I think that comes from Rex [Ryan] down. He believes and trusts in guys in this locker room. Just the way that I trust that Brandon Moore is gonna do his best on every play. He’s gonna prepare to his best ability. And I know he has that trust that I’m gonna do the same. And I think that’s what’s really helped this locker room come together and be the team that we are, because we have that confidence and trust.”
Said safety Dwight Lowery: “I think [we’re happy about beating New England], but at the same time, we expected it. We expected to go in there and win. Everything we said last week was how we felt. And we went out and proved it.”
If they do go out and prove it this Sunday night, their will be no baggies in the locker room again come Monday. Instead of taking their equipment home, they'll be taking it to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV.