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Brash Jets pull upset

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez celebrates after Thomas Jones gained 2 yards on fourth and 1 with 1:09 left. That sealed the Jets’ first berth in the AFC title game since 1999.

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Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez celebrates after Thomas Jones gained 2 yards on fourth and 1 with 1:09 left. That sealed the Jets’ first berth in the AFC title game since 1999.

SAN DIEGO — Rex Ryan, the rookie coach who declared his team Super Bowl favorites before the playoffs started, is just a game away from being hailed for his psychic powers.

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Rookies Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene provided touchdowns as the Jets upset the Chargers 17-14 in Sunday's AFC division game.

Next up are Peyton Manning and the Colts.

"A matchup that probably nobody wanted, but too bad," Ryan said. "Here we come!"

He means: "Here we come again."

It was the Colts, 14-0 at the time, who pulled Manning and other starters in the second half of their Week 16 game against the Jets, who rallied for a victory. After New York clinched a playoff berth in Week 17, Ryan created a postseason itinerary for his players that included the Super Bowl in Miami followed by a parade two days later.

"We believed the whole time, the whole year, when it probably wasn't the popular choice," Ryan said. "We don't have to apologize to anyone."

"Don't pay attention to the words (Ryan) says," linebacker Bart Scott said. "Pay attention to the content. We're not the same old Jets, and we're trying to change what people think of us."

As glum Chargers fans headed out into the equally gloomy evening, several thousand New York fans thronged in the stands behind New York's bench and chanted, "J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!"

One held a sign that read, "I don't have another 41 years," a reference to the Jets' only Super Bowl title, the one that Joe Namath predicted in 1969.

Sanchez threw a go-ahead, 2-yard touchdown to tight end Dustin Keller three plays into the fourth. Greene provided breathing room with a 53-yard touchdown run on their next possession.

After quarterback Philip Rivers scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:14 left to pull the Chargers within three, the Jets recovered the onside kick.

Facing fourth and 1 from the San Diego 29 with 1:09 left, the Jets called timeout. Ryan decided to go for it, and Thomas Jones bulled through the line for 2 yards.

"That symbolizes what this team is all about," guard Alan Faneca said. "The hard nose. We're coming at you."

On the sideline, Ryan lifted much smaller offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer off the ground in a bear hug.

Schottenheimer's father, Marty, presided over two playoff losses with the Chargers, one against the Jets after the 2004 season and one against New England after the 2006 season in which top-seeded San Diego imploded in a flood of errors.

This one was just as bad for the AFC's No. 2 seed.

"We didn't, obviously, play our best game," said coach Norv Turner, whose team had won 11 in a row before Sunday.

"And it's disappointing."

Down 7-3, Rivers underthrew tight end Antonio Gates, who hadn't even turned around. Safety Jim Leonhard intercepted the pass and returned it to the 16. On third down, Sanchez rolled right and hit Keller in the back corner of the end zone.

After forcing a punt, the Jets turned to a running game that was best in the league during the regular season. Greene, a third-round pick from Iowa, went for 4 yards and 2. Then he broke one up the middle, running over safety Eric Weddle in the process.

"Once I got to the secondary, I had one tackle to break, and I did," said Greene, who had 128 yards on 23 carries. "A lot of people didn't know about me, but they know about the Jets."

That sent New York to its first AFC title game since 1999.

"We're not supposed to be here," Faneca said. "All week, people were basically thanking us for providing the game, and we went out and took it."

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Brash Jets pull upset 01/17/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 24, 2010 5:12pm]
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