Jets crash again, but pride remains
The New York Jets had plenty of pride before tangling with the Steelers on Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.
They left with a 24-19 loss -- coach Rex Ryan's third consecutive title game defeat, his second in a row with New York -- but their pride was intact.
"People want to criticize us, you go ahead," Ryan said after the game. "But you really have no right."
The Steelers rushed for 166 yards against the league's third-best run defense, but they almost let a 24-3 halftime lead disappear when the Jets rallied and controlled much of the fourth quarter.
In a quarter when games are usually won and lost, the losing team possessed the football for nearly 12 minutes.
"We played a good half; we just never played a good game," Ryan said. "You have to give Pittsburgh credit. That is a heck of a football team there. If you plan on beating them, you better put four quarters together, and we didn't do that today."
Only Chicago running back Matt Forte had gained more than 100 yards (113) against the Jets this season, and that didn't occur until Dec. 26. Overall, opponents averaged 90.9 per game.
So -- wouldn't you know it• -- the Steelers stubbornly and effectively leaned on their running game in the first half. Running back Rashard Mendenhall finished with 121 yards on 27 carries and had the team's first touchdown -- a 1-yard run in the first quarter. But in the second half, he was held to 26 yards on 10 carries.
"They did a great job of running the football, and we did a poor job of tackling for whatever reason," Ryan said. "Our technique wasn't as good. We made some adjustments at halftime. Our tackling was not up to our standards by any stretch of the imagination."
Ryan said he was disappointed that his defense allowed big first-down completions to tight end Heath Miller and receiver Antonio Brown -- the latter on third-and-6 late in the fourth quarter. He thought cornerback Brodney Pool had a chance to knock away the pass to Miller.
"He went for the swipe instead of putting the glove in there," Ryan said. "It was the first time our defense hasn't responded and gotten a big stop to give our offense a chance to win the game."
Ryan defiantly said the Jets will return next season -- and every season after that, if necessary, until they get it right.
"I am proud of this team," he said. "Our goal for next year, I got news for you, it will not change, and it will never change. We are going to chase it until we get it. And then we will chase it after that again."
Steelers vs. Jets AFC Championship
The Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the New York Jets in the 2011 AFC Championship at Heinz Field, Sunday, January 23, 2011.