In the end, it wasn’t about the running game.
Both the Jets and Bengals rushed for 171 yards Saturday night, but Mark Sanchez easily outplayed Carson Palmer to lead the Jets to a 24-14 wild card game victory in Cincinnati.
Of course, Sanchez didn’t have to go against the Jets defense. Rex Ryan’s crew appeared to confuse Palmer and his receivers, and eventually got pressure on him in the second half. Palmer was very inaccurate.
Sanchez needed only 15 attempts to throw for 182 yards and a touchdown. Palmer only completed 18-of-36 ugly attempts to gain 146 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Darrelle Revis picked off one pass, and held Chad Ochocinco to only two catches for 28 yards. Shonn Greene rushed 21 times for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Thomas Jones took a backseat to the explosive rookie runner.
Shayne Graham missed two short field goals in the second half that would have kept things interesting, but the Jets looked like the better team regardless.
New York advances to play the Colts or Chargers, depending on Sunday’s AFC result.
Just three weeks removed from Tony Gonzalez breaking every Jets fan’s heart, Rex Ryan’s team is one of the final eight teams left standing.
For the Bengals, a once magical season turned painful ends with a thud. They lost four of their final five games.
Palmer waited four years to get back to the playoffs after tearing his ACL only to suffer another deeply painful evening.