Big Talkers Finally Deliver

For the Jets, the time to put their money where their mouth is has come and gone. Fortunately fro one of the loudest locker rooms in the league, the on-field production has finally improved to earn a win. Now it's time for that production to continue. Perhaps the humble pie was good for them.

PITTSBURGH -- Even when prodded several times by inquisitive reporters, when pressed tighter in postgame interviews than he was by the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense during the contest, Braylon Edwards steadfastly declined to concede that the New York Jets' 22-17 victory Sunday afternoon had saved the season.

Salvaged something else, almost as important to the big-talking but suddenly floundering Jets, however? Yeah, Edwards could go for that, it seems.

"No, I wouldn't say that it saved our season, man," said Edwards after his most productive output in a New York uniform. "But I would say it saved our swagger. ... And, for us, that's big. It's almost as important."

The offensively challenged Jets stormed back with 12 unanswered points after falling behind 17-10 early in the third quarter, winning at chilly Heinz Field, where they had never before exited with a victory. And the win, which came with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing two incomplete passes from the Jets' 10-yard line, after he had moved the ball 82 yards in two minutes, certainly permitted New York to regain its fading bravado.

"For us," said Jets tailback LaDainian Tomlinson, "it's always going to be about confidence. But it's going to be about playing well going into the playoffs, and to win here, it restores a little of both."

Despite the defeat, the Steelers secured a playoff berth, and can gain a first-round bye by winning their remaining two games. But by virtue of the victory, the Jets, who might have to return here in the postseason, earned some bragging rights. And, to listen to New York players, rediscovered their mojo.

Said linebacker Jason Taylor, who corralled tailback Mewelde Moore for a key safety with 2:38 remaining: "We came in and won in a tough place and that kind of gets us back on track."

New York scored only one offensive touchdown - its other touchdown came when Brian Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score - and the sputtering unit has reached the end zone now just once in 13 quarters. Ironically, the return by Smith represented the Jets' first touchdown of any kind since the five-year veteran had an 89-yard kickoff return in the final quarter of a 26-10 win against Cincinnati on Nov. 25.

But the New York offense went for 276 yards and, while that was 102 less than the Steelers, managed to control the tempo. Quarterback Matt Sanchez didn't throw up an interception for the first time in nine games, stayed calm against the Pittsburgh pressure, at least twice ducking would-be losses, and was sacked just once.

Notable was that the Jets tricked the Steelers' defense at critical times, like on Sanchezs' seven-yard touchdown run off a fake dive on fourth-and-1, and with a direct snap to Tomlinson - on which Sanchez feigned the snap going over his head - for a 10-yard run on third-and-six in the fourth quarter.

For the most part, though, the Jets got the ball to Edwards and it paid off.

The six-year veteran, added by New York in a trade with Cleveland four games into the 2009 season, had eight receptions for 100 yards. The eight catches were the most for Edwards since the former first-round pick and onetime Michigan standout changed uniforms. The receiving yards were his first 100-yard performance in 26 games for the Jets, and the first time since Nov. 2008 he cracked the century mark.

In the days preceding the game, New York wide receiver Santonio Holmes - the Super Bowl XLIII most valuable player traded by Pittsburgh to the Jets during the offseason because of repeat off-field indiscretions -- suggested it "(wouldn't) be pretty" for the Steelers' secondary. For Holmes, it was a good prediction, but the wrong wide receiver making things difficult for a unit that played without strong safety Troy Polamalu.

Five of Edwards' eight catches were for first downs. The two biggest were a 15-yard grab for 15 yards, on which Steelers free safety Ryan Clark was flagged an additional 15 yards, and a 38-yard hookup in the second quarter on which Edwards got behind cornerback Bryant McFadden.

On an afternoon when the crew of referee Pete Morelli officiated an uneven contest - the refs will blush when they review the video of a contest in which they picked up three flags and overlooked at least two muggings of Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace and a shirt-tug on wideout Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone in the last minute of play - that was enough for the Jets, who had dropped two straight games.

Because the Steelers expected that former teammate Holmes would be Sanchez's go-to guy, it seemed the coverage was designed to stymie him. Pittsburgh's best cover defender, cornerback Ike Taylor, pressed Holmes most of the day. Even though the big-play wideout registered six catches, he had only 40 yards and never shook free for a reception of more than 11 yards.

On the other side of the field, however, McFadden played a lot of off-man coverage on Edwards. And Edwards took full advantage of the cushion provided him. On the 38-yard reception, for instance, McFadden clearly felt Edwards would run a hook or a slant, or something in front of him.

Instead, Edwards got on top of the Pittsburgh corner quickly, sped past him and made a splendid catch of a perfectly-lobbed ball by Sanchez.

Kidded that the Jets had actually ended their offensive touchdown drought, the engaging Edwards faked disbelief.

"You mean, we actually scored, really?" joked Edwards. "But, no, really, it felt real good. We got some strut back in our step. That's us. We kind of take our lead from (coach) Rex (Ryan). It's something we definitely need. It can carry us through, no matter where we might have to go (for the playoffs)."

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