Published September 18, 2015
Personally, Rex Ryan will take it.
He beat Peyton Manning with a made-for-TV script.
Nick Folk made a 32-yard field goal as time expired Saturday night, finally giving the Jets and their bombastic coach a 17-16 playoff victory over Manning's Colts to wrap up a head-to-head showdown that Ryan called personal.
"I'll tell you what, it feels awesome because this is the playoffs and we're moving on," Ryan said.
Manning, somewhat surprisingly, is not.
After winning four straight to clinch the AFC South, Manning moved the Colts into position for a go-ahead field goal with 53 seconds left. Then the four-time league MVP watched helplessly as the Jets drove down the field for the final time.
It's not the kind of finish Manning, or Ryan, are used to in this series.
"It's certainly disappointing tonight and that's really all you think about tonight," Manning said. "It's disappointing with the way we lost tonight. Any time you lose on a last-second field goal, it certainly stings."
With his main tormentor out of the way, Ryan and his Jets (12-5) head to New England for a third meeting with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick next Sunday; they split during the season, but the Patriots won 45-3 at Foxborough.
The Colts (10-7) beat the Jets for the AFC title a year ago. But both defending conference champs were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday. New Orleans, which beat Indy in last February's Super Bowl, lost at Seattle.
It was a remarkable turn of emotions — and events — for the Colts, who thought they had just beaten Ryan again when Adam Vinatieri made a 50-yard field goal that could have added to Vinatieri's reputation as the best clutch kicker in NFL history.
"You know, he (Manning) is the best," Ryan said, "and he almost did it to us again."
But Antonio Cromartie returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards and Mark Sanchez needed only five plays to get the Jets into position for the winner.
Manning certainly had chances to beat Ryan again. He was 18 of 26 for 225 yards and one TD and put Vinatieri in position to win it with the eight-play, 48-yard drive.
The mistake Manning made was the one opponents like the Jets usually make against him: leaving too much time on the clock.
"We were certainly trying to pick up that first down at the end, we thought that would make them use some of their timeouts and we could run the clock down," Manning said. "But we didn't pick up the first down and had to settle for the field goal."
The Jets made Manning pay, and when the Colts called timeout with 29 seconds left and the ball at the Indianapolis 32, Sanchez connected with a high pass to Braylon Edwards for an 18-yard completion on the right sideline to the Colts 14.
On the next play, Folk trotted on and won it.
"We've got to tip our hat to our offense. It was unbelievable," said Ryan, whose bravado made him a summer sensation in HBO's "Hard Knocks" series. "I mean, we totally dominated the second half offensively. On defense, we had to hold serve. Against Peyton, you're not going to stop him completely, but our guys played well enough to get it done and keep him out of the end zone. Our offense was just spectacular."
Manning connected with Pierre Garcon, the star of last year's championship game, on a 57-yard TD pass for the only score of the first half.
LaDainian Tomlinson, considered washed-up by some before the season, carried 16 times for 82 yards and scored on two 1-yard runs to give the Jets their first lead at 14-10 with 9:59 left in the game.
"It's emotional, exciting and all those things at once," Tomlinson said. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight against a great team."
It needed to be after Vinatieri made it 14-13 and then put Indy back in the lead with his longest field goal since making a 51-yarder to beat San Diego on Nov. 23, 2008.
And it looked like Manning would top Ryan again.
But Cromartie, Sanchez, Edwards and Folk didn't let it happen.
"We've been in some close ones this year, but to come out and pull this game out against a great football team, against a great quarterback, it was a Herculean effort," a relieved Ryan said. "I mean really, I'm just thankful for the men I coach. Thankful for the two backs we got, that pounded it in there. Thankful for that coaching staff. Thankful for Nick Folk, and I'm thankful that I finally got to beat Peyton Manning."
NOTES: Indy finished the season with 18 players on injured reserve after putting cornerback Kelvin Hayden on the list before the game. ... Manning's 18 completions left him eight short of passing Joe Montana for second on the career playoff list. ... Jets running back Shonn Greene carried 19 times for 70 yards, and Sanchez was 18 of 31 for 189 yards with one interception. ... New York receiver Brad Smith left in the first half with a quad injury to his right leg, but returned in the second half.