- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The New York Jets have made believers out of a lot of people in recent weeks, particularly those teams they were beating each Sunday en route to the AFC East title.
Add the Indianapolis Colts to that growing list.
After yesterday's 41-0 wild-card rout at Giants Stadium, the Colts probably are ready to crown the Jets as Super Bowl champions three weeks before the fact.
It's hard to imagine a more dominating performance than this one. It tied the New York Giants' 2000 NFC Championship win over Minnesota for the second-most lopsided shutout in league postseason history, trailing only the Washington Redskins' 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL title game.
"When it rains, it pours," Colts linebacker Mike Peterson said. "Everybody was watching this. My mama was watching. I got embarrassed in front of my mama."
The Jets (10-7) out-ran, out-passed, out-defended and out-hustled the shell-shocked Colts (10-7), who entered the game feeling confident about their chances against the AFC's fourth-seeded playoff participant.
Those good vibes didn't last long. The Jets scored on their first three possessions to take a 17-0 lead, carried a 24-0 lead into the locker room, and then put the game away in the second half by controlling the ball for more than 22 minutes, leaving the crowd of 78,524 absolutely giddy.
"Right now, this team is playing better ball offensively, defensively and special teams than anyone else," said running back Curtis Martin, who carried 15 times for 67 yards and sat out most of the second half.
New York advances to next weekend's divisional playoff against Oakland or Tennessee, pending the outcome of today's other AFC wild card game between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. If the Steelers win, the Jets will travel to Oakland; if the Browns win, the Jets will play at Tennessee.
"We're not done," said New York quarterback Chad Pennington, who threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns in his first career playoff appearance. "We're not satisfied with where we are. We are real confident in ourselves right now."
The Jets have every reason to be. Winners of eight of their last 10 games, they've now blown out playoff caliber opponents in successive weeks (Green Bay last Sunday and the Colts yesterday).
New York gained its first postseason victory since 1998 with the ease of a top-ranked college team facing a Division II squad. Pennington continued to play quarterback with staggering efficiency, completing 19 of 25 while posting a sparking 142.0 passer rating.
The Jets also racked up 180 yards rushing against what was billed as a vastly improved Indianapolis defense and more than doubled the Colts' time of possession (40:18 to 19:42) .
And they managed to hold the Colts' high-flying attack to a scant 176 yards of total offense, stifling the vaunted Big Three: quarterback Peyton Manning (14 of 31, 137 yards, two interceptions), running back Edgerrin James (nine carries, 14 yards) and receiver Marvin Harrison (four catches, 47 yards).
"They played awful well," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said, "and made us look awful bad."
The Colts might have gotten the idea this would be one of those days when Troy Walters fumbled the game's opening kickoff. Indianapolis managed to recover the ball, but the tone for the entire afternoon had been set. Minutes later, fullback Richie Anderson scampered 56 yards on a screen pass from Pennington for the Jets' first touchdown New York's longest passing play of the season.
John Hall's 41-yard field goal less than a minute into the second quarter made it 10-0. Walters again fumbled the kickoff, New York recovering this time, and former Maryland tailback LaMont Jordan scored his first of two 1-yard touchdown runs to extend the lead to 17 points.
Pennington's roll-out and 4-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, who made a nifty move to land both feet inbounds, sent the Jets into halftime with a 24-0 lead. And anyone who thought they would ease up in the second half was grossly mistaken.
Chad Morton opened the third quarter with a 70-yard kick return, Hall added another field goal, Pennington tossed his third TD pass and Jordan ran another one in from 1 yard out to give the backup 102 yards rushing and seal the Colts' fate.
"The thing about losing a playoff game is, there is no next week to rebound and bounce back," said Manning, who now has an 0-3 career postseason record. "It will be a long offseason."

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