For nearly a half on Sunday afternoon at O’Neill’s Pub and Restaurant, the hopes and spirits for fans of the New York Jets were as high as, well, a jet at cruising altitude as Gang Green jumped out to a 17-6 lead over the Colts in the American Football Conference Championship Game in Indianapolis.
Then, almost as quickly as you can say “Peyton Manning,” the quarterback and four-time most valuable player found wide receiver Austin Collie for a 16-yard touchdown with 73 seconds left in the second quarter.
That score sparked a run of 24 consecutive points for Indianapolis over the final 31 minutes, and the Colts went on to the 30-17 victory and a berth in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7 in Miami.
Indianapolis won the first championship in its new home with a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI three years ago.
Even as the game was slipping away from the Jets, fans like Greg Hunter — who, as a youngster, remembers the franchise’s crowning glory with the 16-7 upset of the (then-Baltimore) Colts in Super Bowl III — believe the team is on the right track.
“I wasn’t thrilled with the beginning, after the 3-0 start, and the middle of the season, but they came back strong,” Hunter said. “This playoff run is pretty remarkable, with a rookie quarterback (Mark Sanchez) and a rookie head coach (Rex Ryan). This team is not the same old Jets. The first five games and the last five games have not been the same old Jets.”