With two minutes left in the first half, the New York Jets had the ball, first and 10, from the 33-yard line, trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-0. One first down, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez dropped back, but was sacked by Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley. On second down, a Sanchez pass to wide receiver Jericho Cotchery went incomplete. On third down, Mark Sanchez dropped back for a third time in three plays, was sacked for a second time in three plays, and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Pittsburgh’s William Gay, who ran it back 19 yards for the touchdown to give the Steelers a 24-0 lead with 1:13 left in the first half. This lead would prove to be too much for the Jets to overcome, as they would lose 24-19.
The Steelers would open up the scoring on their first possession, taking the ball 66 yards on 15 plays over 9:06 to take a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run from Rashard Mendenhall. The Jets would get two first downs on the their first possession, but would punt the ball off to the Steelers. Pittsburgh would get the ball to the Jets 32, but an interception by Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas would end the drive. The Jets offense stalled once again, this time on three and out. The Steelers would get the ball to the Jets two-yard line, but were held to a field goal by Shaun Suisham, and led 10-0 with 5:57 left in the half. The Jets would then have another three and out, and the Steelers would get the ball and go 66 yards again for a touchdown and 17-0 lead on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
This is when the game turned on what I would call very aggressive play-calling in a situation that called for conservative play-calling, and the Jets were down 24-0. The Jets would score a field goal on a kick from Nick Folk to go into the half down 24-3.
On their first possession of the second half, the Jets would score on a 45-yard reception from Sanchez to former Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, to cut the lead to 24-10. The Jets would stop the Steelers, but would suffer yet-another three and out on their next possession. The Jets would stall the Steelers again, and drive the ball deep into Steelers territory and had a first and goal from the two-yard line. The Jets would run the ball for a one-yard gain by running back Shonn Greene, two incomplete passes by Mark Sanchez, and, on fourth and goal from the one-yard line, Jets running back LaDainian Yomlinson was stopped to give the Steelers the ball.
The Jets would sack Roethlisberger on the next play for a safety, and got the ball back now trailing 24-12. The Jets would drive the ball 58 yards for a touchdown on a four-yard pass from Sanchez to Cotchery to cut the lead to 24-19. Unfortunately, with 3:06 left in the game, the Jets were unable to get the ball back, as Roethlisberger threw two passes, one to tight end Heath Miller, and another, to rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown, to end the game.
After the game, many of the Jets players were asked why the started poorly. “I don’t know why we came out flat” Sanchez said. That was the theme of the entire Jets locker room. I don’t know why the team came out flat either, but that is on the entire coaching staff, mainly head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer. The Jets were too aggressive down 17-0, and when they were down 24-0. They weren’t aggressive enough at the beginning of the game. Also, defensive back Antonio Cromartie, who had a successful game returning kicks when Brad Smith was out, was not used, even though Smith and Cotchery struggled. Ultimately, who knows what would have happened if adjustments were made sooner, if plays were called differents. The game has left a bad taste in the mouths of Jets fans and players alike, as we are all left to wonder what if, until next season.