Super Déjà vu

Forty years ago the New York Jets pulled off arguably the greatest upset in the history of professional sports by beating the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III. The Colts were favored by as many as three touchdowns in some books. That upset is the reason the AFL and the NFL merged, its historical significance is immeasurable.

I just finished watching Super Bowl III in its entirety, and there are some spooky similarities between the 1969 and the 2010 New York Jets (besides the fact that they’re playing the Colts.)

The similarities begin at running back. Like Matt Snell, Thomas Jones is a bit older and a bit banged up. Still, the team relies on him, especially in key short yardage situations like the final fourth down play last week at San Diego. Shonn Greene, like Emerson Boozer, is younger, more physical and offers a spark when he touches the ball. Unlike Boozer, Greene isn’t used to block as much. Instead the Jets lean on their bigs up front to create holes.

That’s where the second similarity comes; the offensive line. Just like in 1969, the current Jets offensive line is top notch. In Super Bowl III Joe Namath was touched just twice, last week Mark Sanchez was sacked only once. A strong and stable offensive front is key to playing physical football, both the 1969 and the 2010 Jets can attest to that.

Although Braylon Edwards is no Don Maynard, he’s still a legitimate deep threat. His speed and athleticism allow Jericho Cotchery, the 2010 version of George Sauer, to chip away at opposing defenses. Like Sauer, Cotchery has great hands and is dependable on third downs. Cotchery has already converted on key third downs in Cincinnati and San Diego this postseason.

You’re probably scratching your head trying to find a similarity between quarterbacks Joe Namath and Mark Sanchez. Well they both fit the dreamy (Yes, I said it) stereotype and they both played for major universities (Namath, Alabama and Sanchez, USC). But what you don’t know, or maybe forget, is that Namath did not attempt a single pass in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl III. Joe threw 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in the regular season, and the Jets were contempt with protecting the ball and running the clock. Barring injury, if Sanchez doesn’t attempt a pass in the fourth quarter against the Colts that’s a very good thing.

The strongest similarity between the 1969 and the 2010 Jets is the Ryan influence on defense. Buddy Ryan, the father of current head coach Rex Ryan, was the linebackers coach of the 1969 version of Gang Green. It was his first job as a professional football coach, and he created multiple blitz packages. The Jets defense forced four interceptions in Super Bowl III, three from Tom Moore and one from the legendary Johnny Unitas. All in all, it was the effort on defense that allowed the Jets to pull off such a momentous upset.

Today it remains the same for the Jets, and their defense will dictate their destiny.

This past week has been long. Longer than any other six-day period I can remember. This game is the biggest Jets game of my life. Sure, the 1998 AFC Championship debacle in Denver can be seen as equally important. But I was just 10 years old, and didn’t yet understand the history of this great game. Now I know that these opportunities are scarce, who knows when the Jets will ever reach this stage again.

Some believe that the Jets are playing with house money and have nothing to lose. My closest friends, including my Dad, have asked me to “enjoy the moment.” But it’s hard to take solace in a loss when you’ve come this far. When opportunity is lingering. When greatness is at stake. This team is special, there’s no doubt about that. Over a two week period it has turned doubters and skeptics like myself into believers.

Unfortunately that means a loss tomorrow would be that much more devastating, but as a Jets fan I wouldn’t expect anything less from the football Gods. Still I’ll kneel and pray to the pigskin prophets this evening in hope of an outcome that would be nothing short of a miracle.

Jets (+8.5) 21 Colts 20

To be perfectly honest I haven’t focused a bit on the NFC matchup this week because to me it doesn’t really matter. It’s a classic “stay-away game,” but if you put a gun to my head I’d say because of the Superdome…

Saints (-3.5) 31 Vikings 20

Rich Ryan

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