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Sunday, January 16, 2011

AFC Division Playoff Provides Excuse for Feasting with Friends

AFC Division Playoff Provides Excuse for Feasting with Friends:
Jets take win leaving Pats fans humbled
(Posted to 1/16)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The event had a Super Bowl feel to it and, as such, needed to be properly celebrated.

The match-up late Sunday afternoon was between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots in the AFC Division Playoff, pitting QB Mark Sanchez against QB Tom Brady.

A devoted Jets fan, my Fairfield friend Ken Kubel would normally host such an event but he had done the honors for the previous game, the Wild Card Playoff between the Jets and Baltimore Colts. So, it fell to our mutual friend Brian Pisanelli, a Patriots fan, to open his doors at his Shelton home and for us Fairfielders to make the trek up.

I had already seen the season fortunes of my own team, the New York Giants, dashed, so had thrown my weight behind the Jets, even dressing in the team’s colors. Mutual Fairfield friend Paul Mucha had adopted the same approach and, really, was more in it for the beer, toting a keg of homemade Alaskan Smoked Porter to the festivities.

Mucha’s contribution was a tasty accompaniment to the fare Pisanelli’s wife Theresa, a Jets fan, had prepared, literally enough food to feed a battalion. Stacked and on deck in her kitchen, it included chicken fries, chili, jalapeno poppers, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, ribs, pigs in a blanket, mac and cheese and assorted chips.

The only other critical room in the ranch-style house was the basement where the game viewing would take place. It had all the features a sports fan could desire: an 18-foot long working bar, pool table, air hockey, dart board, CD jukebox, slot machine, fireplace and, of course, a big screen TV.

As Theresa and Kubel’s wife Ann enjoyed chocotinis, we men tackled the brew and voiced predictions for the game’s outcome.

“I think the Patriots are a slightly better team, but in football, anything can happen,” said Kubel. “I’ve been a Jets fan since the early 80s, during the New York Sack Exchange era, when the Jets made it to the playoffs but not the Super Bowl. This could be our shot.”

Weighing in with a contrasting forecast, Pisanelli said, “I predict the Patriots will win by 23. Our offense is explosive. Tom Brady is unstoppable.”

As the Patriots won the coin toss and elected to kick, several more guys joined the gathering, including Craig Granello, a Steelers fan who was backing the Jets, Brian Fitzgerald, a Pats fan, and Fairfielder Will Silbert, a Jets fan. In all, with kids and significant others in tow, we were a crowd of about 20.

Just over eight minutes into the game, a huge surprise came on a Patriots drive – a Brady pass was intercepted, the first one against him in 340 prior attempts. Unfortunately, New York didn’t capitalize on it and missed a resulting field goal try. Later in the quarter, New England made a similar FG to put the first score on the board and take the lead, 3-0.

“I think this is going to be close,” said Mucha, assessing the game at the close of the 1st. “If the Jets don’t make any more mistakes, like the missed field goal, they’ve got a shot.”

In the 2nd quarter, the Jets answered big with, first, a 37-yard pass completion, then TD run-in by Ladainian Tomlinson to put NY on top 7-3.

“I’m not worried,” said Pisanelli. “It’s still early. Our offense will definitely step up and rise to the occasion.”

The Pats fan was soon eating his words and holding his head as Sanchez connected with Braden Edwards at the close of the 2nd to push the score to 14-3 Jets. NY fans in our group erupted with a chant of “J-E-T-S!”

Silbert weighed in with a halftime perspective. “I think the Jets are doing a great job frustrating the Patriots and pushing penalties. The Brady interception and sacks have been great, too. I really believe the Jets can pull this off.”

The Jets remained feisty in the 3rd, continuing to get to and sack Brady. The angst clearly registered on the QB’s face, but didn’t keep him from tossing a TD pass and leading a 2-point conversion with seconds left in the quarter. This put the Pats within a field goal of NY, trailing 14-11.

The Jets refused to be overtaken and came out swinging again in the 4th with Sanchez connecting to Santonio Holmes for another run-in, pushing the score to 21-11, NY.

“It’s all over now guys,” defended Pisanelli. “All you did was piss ‘em off,” he added, donning his Patriots helmet for the duration of the game.

Theresa took advantage of the moment to step in front of the crowd to rub it in, saying, “Just in case you don’t know the score, it’s 21-11 Jets. Brian, you stink!”

With less than two minutes of game time remaining, the Pats registered a field goal then tried an onside kick, but it ended up in the Jets’ hands and materialized into another New York TD. New England scored once more but couldn’t top the mighty Jets. The final score: 28-21, New York.

“Even though we have one more game left, I think we’re going to the Super Bowl!”, said Kubel’s 11-year-old son Matthew as Theresa good-naturedly tossed her husband’s Patriots helmet out into a backyard snow bank and his jersey to the floor.  

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