Updated: 12/28/10 6:51 a.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — The playoff-bound Jets finally made it back to snowbound New Jersey.
The team was stranded in Chicago an extra day because of the blizzard that crippled much of the Northeast, but flew to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y., on Monday night rather than spend another night away from home. The travel-weary Jets then took a 90-minute bus ride back to their facility in Florham Park, N.J., where they arrived around 11:30 p.m.
The original itinerary had the team on a direct flight to New Jersey on Sunday night, but the wintry weather changed all that.
“Let’s hope things go smoothly from here on out,” center Nick Mangold said on his Twitter page Monday night before the team’s flight. “This has been one crazy trip.”
The Jets tried to stick to their normal routine at their hotel in Chicago, with a makeshift trainer’s room, holding team meetings and reviewing their 38-34 loss to the Bears on Sunday.
“We’re just pretty much staying in the room, resting and watching movies, room service — the typical stuff you do when you’ve got nothing to do,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “Just like a normal Monday for us.”
Well, not quite. But, it hasn’t exactly been a normal season for the Jets, either. They clinched a playoff spot Sunday despite losing, getting into the postseason for the second straight year under Rex Ryan when Jacksonville lost to Washington in overtime.
So, instead of worrying about needing to win their regular-season finale at home against Buffalo next Sunday, the Jets (10-5) are already in. Ryan indicated Sunday he would likely consider having Mark Sanchez sit out while he deals with a sore shoulder.
Not so fast.
“Obviously, his health is the No. 1 concern,” Ryan said Monday. “I’m kind of in that fine line because he is hot right now and we can’t afford for him to take a dip. We need him to stay at this level. So, those are things we’ll definitely consider. I don’t want to say 100 percent that he’s out or he’s in, to be honest with you, but that’s kind of what I’m weighing right now.”
Sanchez missed some practice time last week after injuring his right shoulder in the Jets’ 22-17 win at Pittsburgh, but played well. He was solid against the Bears, completing 24 of 37 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown before his interception in the closing moments sealed the win for Chicago.
“I think he came out well,” Ryan said of Sanchez’s health. “He’s had treatments and all that kind of stuff, but we’ll probably know more when we get back in. My understanding is that he came out fairly well.”
Ryan acknowledged that it’s “definitely a thought” to have Sanchez start against the Bills, and eventually give way to Mark Brunell, depending on the circumstances.
Sanchez had been struggling in the weeks leading up to the past two games, and his confidence took a hit. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was also under fire for his shaky game plans.
“As far as the game is concerned, it was good news, bad news, clearly,” Ryan said. “The good news is our offense, that’s two weeks in a row that if we play offense like this, combined with the way we can play defense and special teams, I think our team is better than we were last year. The thing is, I’ve got to get this defense back. We have to get this defense back to where we’re capable of playing.”
Defense, of course, is Ryan’s specialty, and it has been doing little lately to warrant the coach’s boast that it would be the best in the league by the end of the season.
“I’m excited about where our offense is right now,” Ryan said. “I think we’ve played against two outstanding defensive football teams and we’ve really looked good offensively, so I think we’re peaking at the right time. Now, defensively, obviously, we’re not. We’ve had two games that aren’t up to our standards, but I think we can fix it.”
The Jets allowed the Bears to put up 38 points and roll up 322 yards, including 113 yards rushing by Matt Forte — the first player this season to gain 100 or more yards on the ground against them.
Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter, turning a 24-17 halftime deficit into a 38-31 lead.
“That span in the third quarter,” Ryan said, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Ryan’s plan is to have the defense — surprisingly ranked fourth overall — go back to fundamentals this week at practice, an unusual thing to do at this point in the season.
“I don’t want to diminish what Chicago accomplished because they made some plays, but that wasn’t our best,” he said. “We’ve got to get back. There’s no excuses. We’ve got to get back.”
Ryan made it clear he wants to win Sunday and get to 11 victories, something that has been done only three times in franchise history. The fact the Jets have a shot at the fifth overall seed in the playoffs is also a factor.
“No matter what you say, whoever you are, the No. 1 seed or you can be the No. 6, everybody is nervous about going home because there is that potential,” Tomlinson said. “There are no undefeated teams this year, so everybody has experienced losing. It’s important, having that momentum.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.