By Jim Scott
DNAinfo Senior Editor
MANHATTAN — No one gave the New York Jets a chance to beat the New England Patriots. No one except Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes and New York's defense smothered Tom Brady as the Jets backed up their trash-talking coach with a stunning 28-21 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
"Maybe everybody else never believed, but we believed," Ryan said after the game.
After a week filled with verbal jabs, Ryan's defense did the talking for him on the field Sunday, sacking Brady five times and intercepting him once.
Brady was in the middle of an astounding streak before being hit with a Gang Green hammer on Sunday. The Patriots quarterback had thrown 35 touchdown passes and only four interceptions to lead the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 record. Brady hadn't thrown an interception in 335 attempts before New York linebacker David Harris picked him off in the first quarter on Sunday.
"He may not study like Peyton Manning but he's pretty good," Ryan said about Brady after the game. "We finally got an interception against the guy."
The secret to the Jets success was a brilliant game plan conceived by Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Gang Green abandoned its blitzing style and instead used their linebackers in coverage to help clog up the passing lanes against the league's top scoring offense. The change in style befuddled the Patriots.
"We just didn’t do enough things well today," New England head coach Bill Belichick said during his brief post game press conference. "It’s obvious."
The Jets were pounded by the Patriots 45-3 in their last meeting on Dec. 6, but they showed no signs of intimidation from the opening whistle on Sunday.
Sanchez continued his playoff success by throwing touchdown passes to LaDainian Tomlinson and Braylon Edwards to stake the Jets to a 14-3 first half lead.
The Patriots offense woke up late in the third quarter when Brady found tight end Alge Crumpler with a 2-yard touchdown pass. Sammy Morris ran in from three yards out to score the two-point conversion and cut the Jets' lead to 14-11.
Sanchez answered with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the back corner of the end zone to give New York a 21-11 lead in the fourth quarter. Shonn Greene added a 20-yard touchdown run late in the game and the Jets were on their way to the AFC Championship game for the second straight year.
New York will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game at Heinz Field next weekend for a chance to get back in to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.
The Jets lost to the Indianapolis Colts 30-17 in the AFC Championship game last season, but this year they have different plans.
"We’re moving on. Same old Jets, back to the AFC championship," Ryan said. "The only difference is this time we plan on winning."