EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (BVM) — On Jan. 12, 1969, the New York Jets won their first Super Bowl. The future looked bright as 25-year-old quarterback Joe Namath led them.
Unfortunately, this would be the peak of the Jets franchise. The franchise has not reached the big game since.
In their 63 seasons, they have made the playoffs 14 times. That’s it. They’ve lost in the wild card round five times, the divisional round four times and the conference championship four times.
Three out of the four conference title games were double-digit losses. But in January 2010, the Jets lost the AFC Championship game against the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts 30-17.
That season was very promising as the Jets had young talent like quarterback Mark Sanchez, running back Shonn Greene and legendary cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Going into the 2010-11 season, Jets fans thought back to the 1968-69 team that was youthful and won a Super Bowl. Since the Jets almost made it to the big game the year before, why couldn’t they do it again?
In the offseason, they traded for Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes. They also signed future first-ballot hall-of-fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson to a two-year deal.
The season started off promising as the Jets defeated the Patriots in week two, 28-14. The Jets hadn’t swept the Pats in the regular season since 2000. It was their chance to show that they were the best in the AFC East and possibly the NFL.
After 11 games, the Jets were tied for the best record in the league at 9-2. Their next game was against division rival New England Patriots, the other team tied for the best record in the NFL.
It is still unknown what went wrong with the Jets on that below-freezing Monday night. The Patriots won by a shocking score of 45-3.
The Jets finished the regular season with an 11-5 record and the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
Their first playoff matchup was against the Indianapolis Colts, the team that prevented them from their first Super Bowl appearance in 40 years.
With 53 seconds remaining, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 50-yard field goal to take a 16-14 lead.
After a great return by cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a few first downs, and an acrobatic catch by receiver Braylon Edwards put the Jets in field goal range. 26-year-old kicker Nick Folk drilled a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Jets a 17-16 Wild Card victory.
The divisional round was in New England once again. The Jets remembered that blowout back in December and used it as motivation.
In December, New England was up 17-0 at the end of the first quarter, but in January, the Jets were up 7-3.
New York didn’t hold back as they defeated the Patriots 28-21 (garbage time touchdown by Tom Brady) at Gillette Stadium.
The Jets were heading back to the AFC Championship for the second consecutive season with a different attitude.
The post-game interviews were much different, especially Bart Scott’s.
A week later, the Jets faced another obstacle to reach the Lombardi Trophy site: the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
It was a rough start for the Jets. Folk hit a 42-yard field goal to end the half at a 24-3 deficit.
At halftime, Jets fans were confident they wouldn’t make it to the Super Bowl for the 40th year.
A quick 45-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes got fans back on their couches as the score was a manageable 24-10.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked by defensive lineman Mike Devito for a safety to make it 24-12.
Sanchez found receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a 4-yard touchdown. It was now 24-19 with three minutes remaining.
Two plays, including a first-down reception by Steelers tight end Heath Miller, cost the Jets two of their three timeouts.
Two more short rushes by running back Rashard Mendenhall cost the Jets their final timeout.
It was third-down and six at the two-minute warning. The Steelers were on the Jets’ 40-yard line. A stop would give the Jets the ball back as Pittsburgh would either punt or kick a risky 57-yard field goal.
All eyes were on Big Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben rolled out right after pressure was coming. The most he had run all game.
He found a rookie receiver named Antonio Brown on a slant for a first down to suck the life out of New York and New Jersey.
Three kneel-downs and a shaking of the hands sent Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl and the Jets back home.
The 2009-11 New York Jets were the best thing that happened to the fanbase. It made them believe in Gang Green once again.
Unfortunately, the Jets haven’t been the same since those years. But the future is bright, and the Jets may be back on top of the NFL world someday.