Jets Lose to Bears but Claim Playoff Berth

The lost to Chicago, , on Sunday. They lost the to New England. Yet mere minutes after the Jets sat slumped at their lockers, Washington toppled Jacksonville, delivering the Jets (10-5) a wild-card berth despite their fifth defeat.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said. “It was like we lost, but we still won.”

Indeed. As Coach plowed through his postgame news conference, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback and several Jets assistants gathered around a small television in cramped quarters near the locker room. The escaped with a field goal in overtime, and Tomlinson bounded into the locker room. He shouted, “We’re in. We’re in,” as if, tight end Dustin Keller would say later, “it was his birthday and he just got a big gift.”

Players stood. They exchanged hugs and hand slaps. They yelled. They cheered. They celebrated as if the scoreboard had somehow changed. Only it had not.

Ryan heard all of this through the wall of the coaches’ office. He smiled.

“By the way,” he told reporters, “I think we’re in the playoffs.”

Not everyone shared in the good vibrations. Linebacker Bart Scott walked slowly toward the showers, head shaking in disgust. The Jets’ defense, Ryan’s defense, the unit that anchors this team’s identity, did not perform close to a level that justified jubilation.

Scott began listing all the issues, the 169 all-purpose yards surrendered to running back Matt Forte, the three touchdown passes thrown by quarterback Jay Cutler, the 21 points allowed in the third quarter, the miscommunication, the lack of execution. On one play, Scott said, the Jets sent only 10 defenders onto the field.

At a nearby locker, linebacker Calvin Pace shared Scott’s sentiment. He said the Jets played their worst quarter of the season after halftime Sunday.

“All that matters is we gave the game away,” Pace said. “That’s the bottom line.”

The game turned early into the third quarter, with the Jets ahead, 24-17, and facing a fourth-and-3 at their 40-yard line. All week, Ryan said special teams had practiced a certain fake punt, and despite the lead, despite the field position, they tried it.

Sanchez was in the backfield with the punter, took a direct snap and fired an incompletion. On the next play, Cutler lobbed a beautiful spiral down the right sideline to receiver Johnny Knox, who hauled it in for a 40-yard touchdown. Cutler would throw all three of his touchdowns in the third quarter, while the Jets’ defense seemed to take time off.

The failed fake changed everything. “I don’t know what they were thinking with that one,” Cutler said.

The Jets also inexplicably kicked to Devin Hester, who last week set the career record for most touchdown returns. Hester returned one punt 38 yards in the third quarter, setting up his own touchdown reception. Later in the quarter, he returned a kickoff 40 yards before Cutler delivered another touchdown pass to Knox.

The Jets managed a 34-yard field goal by Nick Folk early in the fourth, which cut the deficit to the final margin. In this season of stirring, last-second victories, Sanchez, for as well as he played Sunday, could not summon another comeback.

Still, Sanchez’s performance said something to his teammates. They watched as he marched through last week with torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder, as he rehabbed and rested and promised he would play. He looked sharp against Chicago’s (11-4) formidable defense, completing 24 of 37 passes for 269 yards, with one touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes and one interception that came on the Jets’ final possession.

“You see the pretty boy, the surfer image,” receiver Braylon Edwards said. “He’s tougher than that. Slowly but surely, he’s turning into the guy this organization needs.”

On offense, the Jets made progress. Ferguson continued to play at a Pro Bowl level. With help, he rendered the All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers a nonfactor. Running back Shonn Greene gained 70 yards on 12 carries, showing shades of his emergence around this time last year.

But this game also symbolized perhaps the most troubling aspect of these Jets. They remain a team that seems to trade progression (on offense) for regression (on defense and special teams). Other weeks, it works the other way. The elusive complete game remains just that.

“We’ve done it in spurts, in different phases,” Sanchez said. “We’re all going to have to do it at the same time if we’re going to make a run like we did last year.”

Ah, yes, last year. The Jets advanced to the A.F.C. title game as a wild card, poaching a pair of playoff victories on the road. As the team remained here Sunday night while a blizzard headed toward New York, they surely were reminded of that run.

If their latest defeat lingered a little less, so be it. The Jets’ last five playoff berths were clinched on the season’s final week. But not this one, not Sunday, not when the Jets somehow lost and won at the same time.

Jacksonville Jaguars Are Healthier and More Successful

Then , an Olympic swimmer turned holistic specialist, began to police the players’ diets when her husband, Luke, was hired last season as the Jaguars’ strength and conditioning coach.

Many factors are feeding into the resurgence of the Jaguars, who host the (6-6) on Sunday. They are 7-5 and lead the A.F.C. South nearly a year after losing their last four games by an average of 10 ½ points to finish 7-9, the division’s worst record.

The team has been infused with young blood — 24 of the Jaguars were not in the league in 2008. It has also benefited from the unexpected mediocrity of its division, epitomized by the , who are 7-6 after reaching the last season.

Quarterback David Garrard and running back Maurice Jones-Drew are having marvelous seasons. Garrard is tied with New England’s for the conference lead with a 66.8 percent completion rate, and Jones-Drew has strung together five 100-yard rushing games, including one for 186 yards on 31 carries last Sunday at Tennessee.

Players like tight end and defensive tackle changed their diets and helped alter the team’s chemistry. Under Nall Richesson’s supervision, Lewis lost his taste for pineapple upside-down cake and soda, and started craving salads and feasting on red-zone defenses. He has a career-high 8 touchdown catches and 41 receptions.

“I would credit at least half my production to the work I’ve done with Anita on nutrition and Luke in the weight room,” Lewis said.

Jack Del Rio, who is in his eighth season as the Jaguars’ coach, said: “Luke and his wife have done a great job helping our guys fuel themselves. What our guys are putting in their system is giving them more energy.”

Nall Richesson, a breaststroker, won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in Spain at age 16. She then endured several years of poor health that compromised her performance in the pool. Her search for answers for the illnesses that stumped her doctors sent her down the path of examining food as not only fuel, but also medicine and led to her business, .

One day last week, the 5-foot-5 Nall Richesson, who is as slender as a carrot stick, bounded into the cafeteria to examine the lunch fare, including gluten-free pasta and a red sauce with no artificial preservatives. The cookie buffet is gone, and in its place are fruit and gluten-free snack bars.

At the smoothie bar, which has fresh fruit and honey but no sugar or dairy, a player was reading the ingredients on the cartons of coconut milk and almond milk. He is trying to gain weight and was looking to see which option contained more calories.

“When I see a guy reading a label, I get so excited,” Nall Richesson said.

“In football I don’t think there’s been a light shone on nutrition,” she added. “There’s a huge focus on weight, but the traditional thought process has been how big can you get in any way, shape or form.

“The challenge with these players is how can they fuel their bodies so they’re energetic and exuberant on the field without inviting the potential health hazards of what being big can bring.”

Lewis, 26, had never given much thought to what he ate. He was, in his words, a reckless eater, until he had a food sensitivity test and discovered his body has an intolerance to many of his favorite foods, including pineapple.

Dining out one night last week at a steakhouse near his downtown apartment, Lewis was careful about his order. He passed up steak for roasted chicken and asked for a side of green beans served dry, without butter. Lewis also ordered a shrimp appetizer and a sweet potato dish but passed on desert, eschewed soda for a glass of water with a slice of lemon, and limited himself to one piece of French bread instead of devouring the whole loaf, as he said he used to do.

“I recover faster,” said Lewis, who is carrying 254 pounds on his 6-6 frame, down from 275 at the start of the season. “I’m running better. I have more energy. And I’m still strong. This is Week 14 of the season and I feel good. That is ridiculous.”

Lewis, a former star from Southern California, did more than change his diet to improve his performance. He used to escape to Los Angeles immediately after the season to be near his mother, stepfather and three younger siblings, with whom he is close. The last two off-seasons, Lewis rededicated himself to football by remaining here so he could work out regularly with Garrard, a sacrifice far harder than forsaking sweets.