(New York Times)
As the game shortens, the Jets' running game becomes less of a factor. Edwards's catch over the middle was set up by excellent play-action. If the Jets cannot score on this drive, play-action, and the occasional 5-yard Tomlinson run, will no longer be relevant.
The Jets run-blitzed on some early downs, sending Bart Scott and Calvin Pace into gaps at the snap to stop Mendenhall. Scott stuffed Mendenhall on one play, but Pace got caught inside and gave up an 8-yard gain. David Harris later crashed a gap for a loss. The Steelers, to their credit, keep flipping field position, forcing the Jets to drive the length of the field.
Tony Richardson entered the N.F.L. as an undrafted rookie in 1995. He blocked for Marcus Allen, then Priest Holmes, then Adrian Peterson, before his current gig as LaDainian Tomlinson's chauffeur. He played a key role in one of the greatest offenses in league history, blocking and catching passes for Dick Vermeil's Chiefs from 2002 to 2005. He went to three Pro Bowls and started for a team that went 13-3 in 2003. He has never been to the Super Bowl.
Jason Taylor joined the Dolphins in 1997, when Dan Marino was still their quarterback and Jimmy Johnson their coach. Taylor developed from an undersized defensive end into one of the league's best defenders, recording 124 sacks for a Dolphins team that spent a decade cycling through coaches, general managers, quarterbacks, and philosophies. He is a likely Hall of Famer, but he has never been to the Super Bowl.
LaDainian Tomlinson, like Taylor, is one of the best players of his generation. He ranks sixth on the all-time rushing list. When he arrived in San Diego, the Chargers were a 1-15 team trying to rebuild after the disastrous selection of Ryan Leaf as their franchise quarterback. Tomlinson helped the team grow into perennial contenders. The team went 13-3 and 14-2 while Tomlinson was its leading rusher. But the Chargers never went to the Super Bowl.
Bart Scott arrived in Baltimore two years too late for Super Bowl glory. He gave his best seasons to a one-dimensional team that could not decide on a quarterback. Mark Brunell led the Jacksonville Jaguars to the A.F.C. championship game in their second season, but could lead them no further. Shaun Ellis came to the Jets in 2000 and played for Al Groh, Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini, rarely missing a start, always finding a way to contribute, never reaching a Super Bowl.
Hope for these veterans, and others on the Jets roster, rests with a 24-year old quarterback and an iconoclastic, unpredictable coach. It rides on an upset win against a perennial powerhouse, a final march on the summit after wins against the Colts and the Patriots. Having beaten two perennial powerhouses, the Jets must now back their considerable boasting by proving they can beat a team for whom even many of the journeyman speak of owned Super Bowl rings in the plural.
Players like Richardson and the others have spent their careers proving themselves. What's one more game? Join us in a bit for the A.F.C. Championship live blog. It will be a blast. Ken O'Brien, Richard Todd, Browning Nagle, Matt Robinson and Glenn Foley guarantee it. Joe Namath was noncommittal.
Please login to add to favorites
Already added to favorites
Added as Favorite