NO DOUBT Eric Mangini and his New York Jets players had to pinch themselves when they woke up this morning.
Such has been the dominance of the New England Patriots over their East Coast rivals that any Jets win – particularly one on the road – is almost worthy of a ticker-tape parade.
After all, before last night’s emotional 34-31 overtime victory, the Jets had lost 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Pats.
Having already lost at home to the Patriots, defeat would have all but ended their hopes of winning the AFC East division and left them scrapping it out for a playoff position.
Instead, they’re in pole position at 7-3 and, suddenly, New York has not one but two genuine Super Bowl contenders.
So what are the Jets feeling most today…euphoria or a sense of a relief? I suspect a mixture of both.
Elation at knowing the balance of power has finally shifted. But, hopefully, also a realization that although they won the Battle of Foxborough, they’ve yet to win the war.
Brett Favre, who played with a reckless abandon at the start of the season, was simply immense when it really mattered.
His pass selection, judgment and self-discipline gave the Jets the upper hand. And, after they had blown a 24-6 lead, he kept his composure to lead them down the field again for what should have been the game-winning touchdown.
When will coaches ever learn? Prevent defense may take time off the clock but it also allows your opponents to get easy downs and, on this occasion, one last shot at the end zone.
Euphoria and relief after "massive" victory
It’s not in the Jets nature to do things the easy way. Randy Moss should never have been given the opportunity to make a fingertip catch from Matt Cassel’s pinpoint pass with one second remaining.
Mangini and his team looked shell-shocked. Their eyes were glazed. How could this be happening to us…again?
It was imperative that they won the toss and were able to receive in OT. I, for one, wouldn’t have fancied their chances had the coin landed heads instead of tails.
The mood in the Jets camp today would have been more than somber had the heroic efforts of Favre, Leon Washington and Kris Jenkins counted for nought.
Instead, they can enjoy a well-earned weekend off before they start preparing for another huge game at the unbeaten Tennessee Titans on Sunday week. The Pats, meanwhile, face a “must win” game against another divisional rival, the Miami Dolphins.
For Pats coach Bill Belichick, a perfect 7-0 in OT games up until last night, the good news is that he no longer has to worry about the quarterback position.
Matt Cassel threw for 400 yards in a losing effort and has proved a more than capable deputy for the injured Tom Brady.
And before Jets fans get too carried away, let’s remember that as well as Brady, the Pats were without safety Rodney Harrison, running back Laurence Maroney, linebacker Adalius Thomas and defensive end Ty Warren.
But when people look back on this result in years to come, the record books won’t show that the Jets were facing a much-depleted Patriots team.
I wonder whether they’ll also look back on it as the night that Mangini’s Jets came of age.