The pigskin "pundits" obsessed about "establishing the run" and "controlling the clock." Those were the keys, they so laughably insisted, to an upset win by Rex Ryan's Jets over the Patriots.
"Establishing the run" and "controlling the clock" might work in your local high school football conference. But they are rarely, if ever, the keys to victory in, you know, real professional football.
Only the Cold, Hard Football Facts had the real "blueprint" for a Jets win over the Patriots. It was a "blueprint" so obvious that most people simply overlooked it.
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. We predicted a 30-19 New England victory. Instead, New York won 28-21 Sunday night. So our pick was wrong. But if the Jets were to win, the key to victory, the proverbial "blueprint" that they needed to follow, was pretty obvious to anyone who bothered to look.
As we stated so vociferously on Boston sports radio WEEI Saturday (we'll try to get audio Monday morning), New York's proverbial "blueprint" for victory came down to one simple factor: the Jets would win if Mark Sanchez had a career performance and outplayed Brady.
It's the same factor that wins almost every single NFL game: more efficient and more productive play at quarterback.
And on Sunday night in Foxboro, Sanchez had a career performance (for the third time in three chances against the Patriots). The Jets got more efficient and more productive play at quarterback, as Sanchez outplayed Brady (again).
We'll never understand the obsession with "running the football" and "controlling the clock." If anything, as we discussed over the weekend, the Jets-Patriots rivalry in recent years should end this obsession with old football clichés once and for all. The success of the Jets should not reinforce this obsession ... even though it did.
After all, the upstart Jets did not beat the former mighty Patriots twice in their last four regular-season meetings – the Rex Ryan/Sanchez Era – by "running the football" or "controlling the clock."
No. The Jets beat the Patriots twice in their last four regular-season games because they finally have a quarterback who can consistently outgun Brady. And they finally have a defense, thanks to Ryan, who can make that dynamic possible. Let's just look at the last four regular-season games between these two teams.
Mark Sanchez in two wins:
  • Week 2 2009:  14 of 22, 63.6%, 163 yards,  1 TD, 0 INT, 101.1 rating
  • Week 2 2010: 21 of 30, 70.0%, 220 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 124.3 rating
  • Total in 2 wins: 35 of 52, 67.3%, 383 yards, 7.4 YPA, 4 TD, 0 INT, 114.5 rating
Mark Sanchez in two losses:
  • Week 10 2009: 8 of 21, 38.1%, 136 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT, 37.1 rating
  • Week 12 2010: 17 of 33, 51.5%, 164 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 27.8 rating
  • Total in 2 losses: 25 of 54, 46.3%, 300 yards, 5.6 YPA, 1 TD, 7 INT, 30.4 rating
Notice a difference? Yeah, of course you do. The Jets won when Sanchez was awesome; the Jets lost when Sanchez sucked. Analyzing football is not rocket science, folks, even though some "pundits" try to make it so. This is pretty much how football works:
  • Pass the ball well = win
  • Pass the ball poorly = lose
Meanwhile, the running game in each instance was so distantly related to victory that they could legally marry in all 50 states. Here's how the Jets ran the ball in their four regular-season games against New England over the past two years:
  • Week 2 2009 (Jets win): 31 attempts, 117 yards, 3.77 YPA, 0 TD
  • Week 2 2010 (Jets win): 32 attempts, 136 yards, 4.25 YPA, 0 TD
  • Week 10 2009 (Jets loss): 26 attempts, 104 yards, 4.0 YPA, 0 TD
  • Week 12 2010 (Jets loss): 31 attempts, 152 yards, 4.9 YPA, 0 TD
A couple things jump out from the rushing numbers: One, in four regular-season games against the Patriots in the Ryan-Sanchez Era, the Jets did not rush for one single touchdown. And two, there was zero statistical difference in the performance of the run game in wins or in losses. In fact, New York's best effort running the ball came during their worst loss, the now meaningless 45-3 defeat in Foxboro back in December.
Nope. The Jets won in the regular season when young Sanchez outplayed Brady. Simple as that. And Sunday night in Foxboro, the Jets won because Sanchez outplayed Brady. In fact, New York's quarterback had another career performance – his third signature effort in three outings against a once-mighty "Belichick defense."
And here's how the two passers compared Sunday night:
  • Sanchez: 16 of 25, 64.0%, 194 yards, 7.8 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, 127.3 rating
  • Brady: 29 of 45, 64.4%, 299 yards, 6.6 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT, 89.0 rating
Brady had bigger volume numbers. More attempts. More yards. Big whoop.
You know the Cold, Hard Football Facts: volume numbers are meaningless. Efficiency numbers are everything. And Sanchez posted the better efficiency numbers in almost every measure.
Another factor reinforced our "blueprint" even further: the Patriots, not the Jets, dominated time of possession (34:56 – 25:04). And the running game was a wash: 29 attempts for 120 yards for the Jets; 28 attempt for 113 yards for the Patriots.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the pigskin "pundits" will continue to insist that Rex Ryan's Jets need to "establish the run" and "control the clock" if they are to continue winning. 
But now you know the truth, if you didn't know it already: these old cliches are tired, useless and meaningless. Instead, the Jets will win when their quarterback plays smart, efficient football. And, right now, they have a very young quarterback who's consistently played football smart enough and efficiently enough to outduel the likes of Tom Brady three times in five opportunities.
Sanchez is 24 years old and he's 4-1 in the playoffs thanks to our "blueprint." It's a "blueprint" the Patriots once had, but have since lost. New England is now faced with the Cold, Hard reality that they've lost three straight postseason games, each a mirror image of each other: a quarterback, and an offense, that's failed to produce when it's mattered most.
The Patriots have scored just 49 points in their last three playoff games. That's 16.3 PPG, for those of you keeping score at home. Two of those three impotent losses came at home, in an arena where they're unbeatable in the regular season. Two of those three impotent losses came on the heels of prolific regular seasons: a record 589 points during the 2007 regular season, followed by 14 points scored in a Super Bowl loss to the Giants; 518 points during the 2010 regular season, followed by 21 points scored in a playoff loss to the Jets.
Hell, that's Peyton Manning bad.
The Jets, meanwhile, march off into the AFC title game for the second year in a row with that old blueprint squarely in their possession: they'll win when they dominate the passing wars.
And now they have young quarterback who has already shown he can consistently deliver, can consistently win the passing wars against the game's elite, when presented that opportunity.