Jets, Ravens clinch final playoff slots
• Photo gallery: NFL Football - Week 17
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rex and The Sanchise are headed to the playoffs, lucky breaks and all.
Same Old J-E-T-S? Nope, not this time.
Rex Ryan's top-ranked defense shut down Cincinnati and rookie Mark Sanchez efficiently led a clock-eating offense as the New York Jets clinched their first playoff berth in three seasons with a 37-0 victory last night at the frigid Meadowlands.
"It's a special feeling," Sanchez said. "A few weeks ago, people had us counted out."
Needing a win to keep their season going, and playing in front of frosted fans braving Arctic conditions, the Jets (9-7) set up a rematch against the AFC North champion Bengals (10-6) in the first round Saturday at Cincinnati.
Ryan led his players back onto the field after a few minutes in the locker room, celebrating with a victory lap and high-fiving the few thousand remaining fans.
"It was great," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We had to give back to the fans. They stuck with us."
The win — marked by Ryan getting a Gatorade shower on the sideline — was likely the last game at Giants Stadium and capped a series of favorable twists and turns for the Jets.
New York appeared to be on the outside of the playoff hunt two weeks ago when it lost to Atlanta, and Ryan even mistakenly said his team's playoff chances were over.
Instead, the Jets defeated previously undefeated Indianapolis last Sunday when Peyton Manning and other Colts stars went to the bench in the second half. Several other teams in playoff contention lost, setting up the Jets' win-and-in game against the Bengals.
"I don't believe we backed into anything," Ryan said, "so we're going to try to prove it."
Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said his team would be ready.
"We'll be fine," said Ochocinco, who left the game with a left knee injury and will have an MRI exam today. "We'll study a lot of things we can fix, especially offensively. Next week will be a lot more serious."
Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards boldly told the fans earlier in the week that New York wouldn't lose, and his teammates backed him up big-time.
"That's a great team we have to play again," Sanchez said, "so, we have to be ready for a dogfight at their place."
It was the Jets' first shutout at home since beating Pittsburgh, 6-0, on Dec. 14, 2003.
Sanchez was 8 for 16 for 63 yards with no turnovers before being replaced by Kellen Clemens late in the game. Thomas Jones ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns and do-it-all wide receiver Brad Smith had 92 yards rushing, including a 32-yard TD run.
CINCINNATI 0 0 0 0— 0
N.Y. JETS 7 20 3 7—37
NYJ—Jones 1 run (Feely kick), 10:46.
NYJ—FG Feely 20, 13:29.
NYJ—B.Smith 32 run (Feely kick), 6:37.
NYJ—Cotchery 6 run (Feely kick), :37.
NYJ—FG Feely 39, :00.
NYJ—FG Feely 40, 9:47.
NYJ—Jones 2 run (Feely kick), 9:55.
First downs 5 21
Total Net Yards 72 320
Rushes-yards 18-72 57-257
Passing 0 63
Punt Returns 2-50 4-59
Kickoff Returns 5-150 1-20
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-34
Comp-Att-Int 4-19-1 8-16-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-31 0-0
Punts 7-39.3 3-43.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 7-44 4-20
Time of Possession 18:46 41:14
RUSHING—Cincinnati, L.Johnson 9-38, Scott 6-20, Leonard 1-8, J.Johnson 1-3, O'Sullivan 1-3. N.Y. Jets, B.Smith 4-92, Jones 27-78, Greene 13-62, Woodhead 6-20, Cotchery 1-6, Sanchez 2-2, Richardson 1-0, Clemens 3-(minus 3).
PASSING—Cincinnati, O'Sullivan 3-8-0-31, C.Palmer 1-11-1-0. N.Y. Jets, Sanchez 8-16-0-63.
RECEIVING—Cincinnati, Coles 3-19, Coats 1-12. N.Y. Jets, Cotchery 5-39, Edwards 2-15, Keller 1-9.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.