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AFC: Jets-Patriots report card

Grading out the performances from the Jets' stunning 28-21 win over the Patriots in an AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium:

Quarterback: Mark Sanchez started where he left off last week against the Colts by overthrowing receivers, but he recovered and hit a nice rhythm by the second quarter. He didn't take too many shots down the field, but he hit a big one to Braylon Edwards in the second quarter that took the Gillette Stadium crowd out of the game. His overall numbers -- 16-for-25 for 194 yards and three touchdowns -- aren't eye-popping, but he did a great job controlling the game and avoiding turnovers. Grade: B+

Running Backs: Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 4.1 yards per carry and totaled 119 combined yards to help the Jets keep the ball out of the Patriots' hands. Tomlinson had a key touchdown in the first half and looks much fresher than he did late in the regular season. Grade: A-

Wide Receivers: Each of the Jets receivers came up with game-changing plays. Braylon Edwards had a huge 37-yard catch in the first quarter that set up the Jets' first touchdown, and then dragged two Pats defenders into the end zone for a 15-yard score. Jerricho Cotchery had a 58-yard catch and scamper down the sideline just when the Patriots looked like they had regained the momentum in the second half. Santonio Holmes had a couple of drops, but made up for it with a spectacular 7-yard touchdown reception reminiscent of his Super Bowl-winning catch when he was with the Steelers. Grade: A-

Offensive Line: The line didn't miss a beat without starting right tackle Damien Woody, who was placed on the IR with an Achilles injury. Wayne Hunter did a fine job filling in on a line that protected Sanchez and provided a push for the running game. Sanchez had the kind of time Tom Brady usually gets with the Patriots, and wasn't sacked once. The running backs had holes all game and the New England defenders had very few shots at the Jets' backs behind the line of scrimmage. Grade: A

Defensive Line: End Shaun Ellis set the tone early with two sacks and helped make Brady uncomfortable in the first half. Thanks to consistent pressure, Brady had to move around in the pocket a lot more than he likes to. They didn't get as much pressure in the second half, but if Brady held on to the ball too long looking for an open receiver, they eventually got to him. Grade: A-

Linebackers: David Harris is the first person to intercept Tom Brady since Week 5, and had a nice 58-yard return early in the game. Harris also got flagged for a costly face mask, but made up for it with a number of disruptive plays. Outside backer Calvin Pace had a big strip sack of Brady in the third quarter. Bart Scott didn't back up his tough talk, totaling just two tackles in the game. And they also did a decent job in coverage on New England's tight ends, considering that was a big concern coming in for New York. Grade: A-

Defensive Backfield: Darrelle Revis actually had two passes completed in front of him, but the cornerbacks shut down the Patriots' receivers for most of the game. Brady had to look for his tight ends, since Deion Branch and Wes Welker were not open for most of the night. The Jets' safeties also did a good job limiting New England's big plays. The Pats' longest play from scrimmage was 37 yards, and they had only two plays over 25 yards. Safety was a weak spot for the Jets in their last game against the Pats, but Eric Smith did a great job. Grade: A

Special Teams: Antonio Cromartie did a nice job filling in for Brad Smith on kickoffs, giving the Jets' good field position in the first half as they were trying to establish their offense. Nick Folk barely missed a first-quarter field goal, kicking it just over the top of the post. The Jets gave up two big returns -- one off a punt late in the fourth quarter and one kickoff return at the end of the half -- but they didn't end up causing too much damage. Grade: B-

Coaching: After all the distractions during the week, Rex Ryan had the Jets ready to play and well schooled on the game plan. He followed up on his promise and out-coached Bill Belichick to improve to 4-1 in the postseason. Ryan clearly used the 45-3 loss as a rallying point to galvanize his team. The coaching staff should feel particularly proud of how they shut down a Patriots' offense no other team could figure out. Grade: A+

Quarterback: Tom Brady uncharacteristically lost his composure in the first half. He looked indecisive and out of sync with his receivers. Even when he had time, he often threw to guys who were covered with other targets wide open. The only reason he ended up with decent-looking final numbers (29-for-45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) is because the Jets' defense backed off late. Grade: C-

Running Backs: Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis were perfectly adequate and both had some big first downs. But neither is a game-changer, and the Pats really could have used a back with home run ability. Grade: B-

Wide Receivers: For most of the game, the receivers didn't get any separation from the defenders, and they don't scare anybody going long. Deion Branch started to connect with Brady, but couldn't pull in a decisive fourth-down pass late in the game. As expected, the Patriots' tight ends did some damage. Rob Gronkowski had four catches for 65 yards and Alge Crumpler had three catches for 39 yards. Grade: C-

Offensive Line: In fairness, most of the Jets' five sacks were because of downfield coverage. But, with Brady off his game, the Pats' line had to be perfect, and they weren't up to the task. Grade: C+

Defensive Line: Vince Wilfork made a couple of his signature disruptive plays early and then seemed to disappear. They failed to sack Sanchez even once, and barely knocked down the Jets' quarterback the entire game. Grade: C-

Linebackers: Too often the Pats' linebackers were blocked and the defensive backs were left to make the tackle. They also deserve blame for not getting a sack or any kind of game-changing plays. Grade: C-

Defensive Backfield: The defensive backs weren't beat often, but they gave up just enough plays to give the Jets a lead they could work with. They had a tough task on a few pass plays because the line wasn't getting much pressure, but the Patriots desperately needed a pick or a fumble and this unit couldn't help. Grade: C+

Special Teams: Patrick Chung fumbled a direct snap on a fake punt in the second quarter -- a momentum-changing play. They did have two big returns, but they didn't really make a big difference. After the game, Bill Belichick noted how important the Jets' early field position off kickoffs was. Punter Zoltan Mesko was uneven as well, but he probably never thought he'd be on the field that many times. Grade: B

Coaching: Bill Belichick opted to bench Wes Welker for the start of the game, presumably because of his foot comments in a mid-week press conference, and it appeared to affect the offense early. Was this the right time to make a point? Belichick also deserves blame for a bad challenge in the first half and the ill-advised fake punt, even if it wasn't his call. The Pats weren't mentally prepared to play a team they had blown out just over a month ago and Belichick deserves the blame. Grade: D-

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