EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Jets insisted they were ready for the next step, winning an NFL playoff game. They turned it into a huge leap past the befuddled Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
After barely getting into the postseason, the Jets emphatically showed they belong with a 41-0 rout of the Colts. Chad Pennington, the sparkplug of their turnaround, threw for three touchdowns, LaMont Jordan ran for two and the defense recorded its first postseason shutout ever.
New York (10-7) began the season 1-4, but won seven of its last nine to storm to the AFC East title on the final day of the season. The surge continued against the wild-card Colts (10-7), who never were in the game as the Jets recorded their biggest victory margin in the playoffs.
The Jets will be at either Oakland or Tennessee next weekend. It was their first postseason victory since 1998, when they made it to the AFC championship game, and the score matched the last playoff game at Giants Stadium, when the Giants beat Minnesota for the 2000 NFC title.
It also was the first NFL playoff game featuring two black head coaches. The Colts' Tony Dungy and the Jets' Herman Edwards, longtime friends, are the only black head coaches in the league. Edwards spent five seasons as Dungy's top assistant in Tampa before becoming the Jets' coach in 2001.
The student came out on top of the mentor because his offense was unstoppable, his defense stingy and his special teams dominant from the outset.
On the Jets' fifth offensive play, Pennington's screen pass floated into Richie Anderson's hands and he rambled down the left side for a 56-yard score. The touchdown was the longest of his 10-year career, the longest this season for the Jets and the longest scoring play from scrimmage in their playoff history.
The Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison connection got the Colts moving — for just about the only time — immediately after the TD with three completions for 38 yards, with two third-down conversions. But Mike Vanderjagt was short and wide with a 41-yard field goal.
John Hall made one from the same spot early in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
Troy Walters then fumbled the kickoff and Ray Mickens pounced on it at the Indianapolis 39. Five runs and a pass play later, Jordan swept left from the 1 for a 17-point lead.
It became 24-0 with 37 seconds remaining in the first half when Pennington rolled out and found Santana Moss alone in the right corner of the end zone. Moss grabbed the high throw and barely got both feet in-bounds.
In matching their biggest playoff output in a half, the Jets effectively secured their spot in the next round of the playoffs. But they didn't pull back. Chad Morton ran the second-half kickoff 70 yards to the Indy 19, setting up Hall's 39-yard field goal. Rookie tight end Chris Baker caught his first TD pass, a 3-yarder late in the third quarter. And Jordan, who rushed for 102 yards (89 in the second half), scored again from the 1 in the fourth period.
Pennington, the league's most efficient passer, wound up 19-for-25 for 222 yards, easily outperforming one of his heroes. Manning was a miserable 14-for-31 for 137 yards and two interceptions, and his team had the ball for just 19:42 — 7:44 in the second half.
Manning, who consistently barked instructions to his teammates at the line of scrimmage — often to no avail as New York's aggressive defense applied steady pressure — never has won a postseason game. He is 0-3, and this was the worst of those defeats.
He wasn't helped by six drops and an offensive line that couldn't protect keep pressure off him. Harrison, who smashed the NFL record with 143 receptions this season, had only four Saturday.