Jets forget the trash talk, lose their energy in title-game loss

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Jets were uncharacteristically quiet all week.

Not much changed once the game started. By the time they made some noise, it was simply too late.

Rex Ryan's big-mouthed bunch was shut down and shut up in the first half Sunday night by Pittsburgh. The Jets' defense was dominated by Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and the Super Bowl-bound Steelers, 24-19.

"It's the toughest loss I've ever been a part of," linebacker Jason Taylor said.

After a loud run through the postseason that had the Jets in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year, New York was silenced until a second-half comeback attempt fell short.

And it was because of a stunningly slow start that lacked the intensity of the Jets' first two playoff victories.

"We just came out flat," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

Said defensive end Shaun Ellis: "They came out and out-tempoed us."

Ryan's aggressive defense was leaky from the beginning, allowing Pittsburgh gain after big gain as the Steelers jumped out to a 24-0 lead from which the Jets couldn't recover.

"They made plays when they had to," Ryan said, "and that's why they're moving on."

Ryan said all season he thought his team was going to win the Super Bowl, even boldly scribbling "Soon To Be Champs" on an ESPN bus during training camp. On Friday, he reiterated that he wanted to see green and white confetti fall, wanted the celebratory hats and T-shirts and to raise the trophy as AFC champions.

It wasn't to be. Again.

"Think about the worst thing that can happen to you," center Nick Mangold said. "That's the feeling."

Two trips to the AFC Championship Game, two disappointing walks off the field by Ryan and the Jets.

"I would change the outcome of this game, and that's the only thing I would change," Ryan said. "We don't need to apologize to anybody. We'll be back, you'll see."

And, just like that -- right to the very end -- Ryan ended the season the way he started it. With a bold guarantee.

But the Jets have a whole offseason to think about what might have been.

"There's nothing to smile about right now," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We wanted to be the one out there with the Lamar Hunt Trophy and we just weren't -- two years in a row."

Things got so frustrating for the Jets, Sanchez said, the headsets to communicate with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer malfunctioned multiple times in the game. That caused the quarterback to have to run back and forth to the sideline to try to get plays.

"It was just one of those things we had to keep fighting through," Sanchez said. "Just another challenge."

Ryan called the Jets' first-round playoff game against Indianapolis "personal" against Peyton Manning, and the defense bottled up the Colts' Pro Bowl quarterback.

The next week, Ryan said it was between him and the Patriots' Bill Belichick, declaring he needed to outcoach his counterpart. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie fired things up by calling Tom Brady an expletive, and the trash talk escalated from there.

The Jets backed up all the big talk by stunning the Patriots, 28-21. But things took a silent turn last week when Ryan heaped praise on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, using words such as "respect" and "like," and his players followed suit.

Turns out, the Jets needed to keep that mean streak going. Maybe they left it all out on the field at Foxborough.

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At least it certainly appeared that way from the start, as the Jets couldn't get the Steelers' offense off the field. Missed tackles, bad decisions and subpar performances put New York in a 24-3 halftime hole.

"I have no idea what happened," Revis said, echoing several of his defensive teammates.

Pittsburgh held the ball for more than 21 minutes, outgained New York, 231-50, and outrushed the Jets, 135-1, in the opening half.

"It came down the most basic lesson in football, man: tackling," defensive tackle Sione Pouha said.

New York's defense had a solid second half, keeping the Steelers off the scoreboard. But the Jets needed to make one more stand to give themselves a chance at a late comeback. With the Steelers facing third-and-6 with two minutes left, the Jets got pressure on Roethlisberger. But the big quarterback rolled out and got a pass off to Antonio Brown, who went down and grabbed the toss for a first down, allowing the Steelers to run out the clock.

"Ben is Ben," said Pouha, who smacked into Roethlisberger as he threw. "I was just hoping it would deter the throw, but that's second nature to him."

Ryan then slammed down his headset, knowing his team's season again ended one win short of where he told everyone it would.

"There's no tomorrow," Pouha said, almost whispering. "We're going home."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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