Jets stumble into playoffs

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez throws a pass while being tackled by Bears defensive tackle Israel...

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez throws a pass while being tackled by Bears defensive tackle Israel Idonije at Soldier Field in Chicago on December 26, 2010. (FRANK POLICH/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 PM ET

Just who are the New York Jets anyway?

This has to be the most mercurial, unpredictable outfit in the NFL.

They built a reputation as a ravenous, quarterback-eating defence, created in Rex Ryans swashbuckling image. Offence has always been a crapshoot for the Jets, but a defence like the one that the Jets thought they possessed can erase a lot of sins.

You would not have recognized any of that Sunday against the Bears, a 38-34 shootout that only adds to the Jets mystifying puzzle. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler hardly had a speck of Soldier Field dirt on his uniform. Remember, now, this is the same quarterback whose offensive line had allowed 44 sacks coming into this game and this is the same Jets defence that had 35 sacks of their own. The Jets hardly got close to Cutler. Meanwhile Bears RB Matt Forte became the first 100-yard rusher of the season against the Jets.

On the other side of the ball, the Jets actually had some success and Mark Sanchez showed absolutely no ill-effects from that perceived shoulder injury. He was 24-of-37 for 269 yards and moved up and down the field all day. His one and only interception came at desperation time in the final minute.

The biggest offensive error of the game for New York was made by Ryan himself who, on the first series of the third quarter, had the half-baked idea to fake a punt at his own 40. The Bears had it sniffed out in advance, and while Brad Smith should have made the catch, this turnover and the subsequent Chicago TD on the very next play, was all on Ryan.

One of these days, the Jets are going to pay a serious price for their inconsistent play but they currently have this charmed existance. Despite losing for the third time in four games, they magically clinched a playoff spot after this latest loss because the only team that could catch them for the sixth and final postseason berth, the Jacksonville Jaguars, lost to the Washington Redskins.

It wasnt until Ryan was in the middle of his post-game news conference that he learned the Jags had lost and the Jets were in.

Ill take it, Ryan said. Thats not the way we wanted it, but were in it.

Having said all that, the split-personality of the Jets will create a great deal of anxiety heading into the playoffs. You just have to wonder who will be most anxious? The Jets and their backers who think this team is an accident waiting to happen? Or their opponents, who know this team is dangerous?

The Bears, meanwhile, are in a very good place these days. They hold the upper hand to become the No. 2 seed in the NFC and would earn a bye into the divisional playoffs. They have now won seven of their last eight and Cutler has seldom looked as good as he did Sunday.

We knew with our speed it would be hard for them to keep up, he said. When theyre face-guarding like that, Im going to put it right on and let the receiver make a play. Its really hard to stop.

Cutler made it look easy, especially in the third quarter when he made three long TD connections. In the fourth quarter, the Bears defence, which had proven none too difficult for Sanchez to crack earlier, stepped up and made the plays when it had to.

This is playoff football, said Chicago coach Lovie Smith. Theres not going to be any blowouts in playoff football. You have to finish the game and our guys did that.

McNabb shocker

It will not come as a surprise to anyone, Mike Shanahan included, that Donovan McNabb plans to ask for his release from the Washington Redskins at the end of this season.

McNabb has been unceremoniously benched by the Skins and is clearly not in their long-range plans. Yet, even though the Redskins dont want him, they probably will explore all trade avenues before they would consider simply releasing McNabb.

The quarterback has a $10 million option bonus in his contract that a trading team would likely have to pay and its not clear how much of a deterrent that would be to some teams that are desperate for a veteran QB with something left in the tank.

Sharks in the stands

QB Chad Henne on hearing the boos from the home fans: Its not a good feeling when you dont have the support of your fans.

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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