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Jets Know ‘it’s Now or Never’ to Make Playoff Push


New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

The New York Jets had a few agonizing days to replay their jaw-dropping loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in their minds.


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It was tough to shake the frustration of the 17-13 defeat last Thursday, even with some time away from football. Then, the Jets re-lived it all Monday as they returned to work and trudged through the game film.

“I would’ve preferred to have watched it Friday and been done with it,” right guard Brandon Moore said, “and not torture yourself over the weekend.”

The Jets (5-5) are well aware they’ve played themselves into a precarious position with losses to New England and Denver in a span of five days. Just like that, they went from being considered one of the AFC’s best teams to a team that will need to hustle to even make the postseason.

“I think everyone kind of feels like it’s now or never,” safety Jim Leonhard said. “We have to play well, and we have to play well now.”

New York has six games left to save its season, beginning Sunday with a home game against the struggling Buffalo Bills (5-5). Coach Rex Ryan said the postseason has already started because the Jets have run out of “breathing room.”

“In this game, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself,” linebacker Bart Scott said. “You have to move on, and you have to get ready to play. We dealt ourselves a bad hand, but we’re still in the game. And as long as you’re still in the game, you have to perform. This is a good opportunity for us to get on the right track and try to go on a roll, because we have to. We can’t afford to lose any more games.”

New York is in the middle of a muddled AFC playoff picture that includes 13 of 16 teams with as many as four wins. Even with gloom and doom being the overwhelming feeling among fans and the media, the Jets believe they can still turn things around.

“The good thing about this football team is everything we do is set up to get our team to be at their best at the end of the season, and here we are,” Ryan said. “We’ve earned that 5-5 record, but we’re focused on what’s in front of us. We better get it done. We better get it done in a hurry.”

At this time in 2009, the Jets were 4-6 and in the midst of a three-game skid. They finished 5-1 to reach the playoffs and make the first of their consecutive trips to the AFC title game. So New York has been through this before, but the players aren’t relying on history.

“I’m a firm believer that 2009 has no bearing on 2011,” Moore said. “That past, it won’t measure up. There are different teams that you’re going against. There are different players here. We just have to focus on winning this next game, and how it plays out over the next six games, who knows?”

The schedule is at least in the Jets’ favor, with just one team left that currently has a winning record. They’ve got the Bills, who have lost three in a row, followed by Washington (3-7), Kansas City (4-6), Philadelphia (4-6), the Giants (6-4) and Miami (3-7).

All winnable games it appears, but the Jets’ loss at Denver proved that no team can be taken lightly. Not after Tebow drove the Broncos 95 yards on the winning drive in the closing minutes, capped by his 20-yard scramble that still had the Jets shaking their heads Monday.

“We expect to have a dominant defense for 60 minutes,” Ryan said, “not 58 minutes or whatever it was.”

Mistakes have punctuated the last two losses, from quarterback Mark Sanchez making poor decisions to the defense not making big stops to shut down opposing offenses to the usually solid special teams unit fumbling balls away. The offensive line also has been suspect, and the running game has been slow to get going.

“Sometimes we look like a million dollars, sometimes we look like $75,000,” Ryan said, poking fun at his NFL fine for yelling profanity at a fan at halftime of the Patriots game. “Sometimes, we look like nothing.”

The Jets players have heard it all during the last several days, whether it’s fans on the radio or Twitter or the media questioning whether this team has what it takes to make a playoff push.

“Fans and the media bash us, well, so be it,” rookie defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson said. “You’ve just got to put that aside and not worry about it. It can’t help us or hurt us. If you’re a true Jets fan, at the end of the day, you’re going to stick with us through thick and thin. So, we can’t focus on anyone bashing us. We just need to improve.”

Sounds simple enough. But the season depends on it.

“I just know,” an ever-confident Ryan said, “in my opinion, we have the kind of team that can get hot and can put it together.”

NOTES: WR Plaxico Burress was excused from practice for “personal reasons,” with Ryan saying the wide receiver had personal days scheduled “a while ago” for Monday and Tuesday. ESPN reported that Burress is in the Virginia Beach area — he’s from there — taking care of “philanthropic business,” according to his wife, Tiffany. … Ryan expects RB LaDainian Tomlinson (left knee), RB Shonn Greene (ribs), WR Jeremy Kerley (left knee), S Brodney Pool (left knee) and LG Matt Slauson (right knee) to all play Sunday despite not participating in a light practice Monday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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