By Steve Keating
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - The tough-talking New York Jets must endure a treacherous flight path to reach the Super Bowl this year, perhaps a fitting challenge for a team that spent much of the NFL season bragging about their talent.
After Saturday's heart-stopping playoff win that surprised the Indianapolis Colts, Jets coach Rex Ryan, who is never at a loss for words, may struggle finding the proper superlatives if they clear the next hurdle against top-seeded New England.
A trip to Dallas for the Super Bowl on February 6 will require the Jets, who won 17-16 at Indianapolis on a last-second field goal, to register two more road wins against the Patriots and, if the seedings hold true, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That means outsmarting the Colts' Peyton Manning, Patriots' Tom Brady and Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, three of the NFL's top quarterbacks who are all possible future Hall of Famers that have combined to win six of the last nine Super Bowls.
Although the Jets have often talked a better game than they have played this season, they proved with Saturday's win over the Colts that they are capable of backing up their boasts.
"It feels awesome because this is the playoffs and we're moving on," Ryan told reporters following the Jets victory over the Colts. "(Manning) is the best and he almost did it to us again ... to come out and pull this game out against a great football team against a great quarterback."
Beating the injury-ravaged Colts is one thing, but taking down the 14-2 Patriots on the road in an AFC divisional battle is another matter.
Gillette Stadium has essentially been a gridiron wasteland for visitors with Brady posting an NFL record 28 regular season wins as a starter at home.
The Patriots quarterback has been on fire going a record 335 straight pass attempts without an interception while leading New England to eight consecutive wins to close out the regular season.
Included in that run was a 45-3 demolition of the Jets on December 6 when Brady picked apart the defense by throwing for four touchdowns and 326 yards.
But after a regular season packed with distractions, scandals and controversy, the Jets believe their Super Bowl time has come, even if few others are convinced.
"There's no tomorrow, no one believes in us but ourselves," said Jets 31-year-old running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who ran for two touchdowns against the Colts. "For us that's what it is about.
"Every opportunity is precious, for me as an older player you never know when the opportunity is going to come around again.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)