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Mike Tannenbaum: ‘No doubt in my mind’ Jets could have completed 2010 comeback

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23: Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets warms up his arm on the sideline against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 24-19.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Appearing on the Around the NFL podcast, former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum looked back on the 2010 AFC championship game.

A decade later, Mike Tannenbaum still hasn’t gotten over the 2011 AFC championship game. The former general manager of the New York Jets confirmed that idea when he looked back on the contest during an appearance on the Around the NFL podcast earlier this week.

On that cold January afternoon, Tannenbaum witnessed what’s remained the last Gang Green postseason contest. In that game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets nearly overcame a 24-3 halftime deficit to earn their ticket to Super Bowl 45 in Arlington, Texas.

Despite a pair of Mark Sanchez touchdown throws to Santonio Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets fell by a 24-19 score. It was their second-straight defeat in the AFC title game, having fallen to Indianapolis the year prior.

In a video released by Around the NFL’s Twitter account, Tannenbaum is presented the game’s climax by hosts Dan Hanzus, Gregg Rosenthal and Marc Sessler.

With the Steelers facing a 6-yard third-down shortly after the final two-minute warning, a New York defensive stop would’ve afforded them a chance for a game-winning drive. Alas for the Jets, Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a 13-yard gain, allowing the Steelers to run out the clock and advance to North Texas.

Tannenbaum watched silently as he relived the end of the game. Replying to an inquiry from Hanzus, Tannenbaum believes without reservation that, had the Jets defense made that stop, Sanchez and company would’ve earned the touchdown necessary to advance to the Super Bowl.

“One hundred and fifty percent. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Tannenbaum said.

The former Miami Dolphins Vice President of Football Operations added that a play from far earlier in the game sticks with him. On the opening drive of the game, Pittsburgh’s first set of downs was set to end with a punt from their 37-yard-line after Roethlisberger’s pass to Emmanuel Sanders fell incomplete.

However, a hands-to-the-face penalty far from the area was called on Antonio Cromartie, affording Pittsburgh a fresh set of downs. Thirteen plays later, the Steelers began their early onslaught with a one-yard touchdown run from Rashard Mendenhall.

“You know what kills me? Go back to the first third down of that game, they called hands to the face on Cromartie 50 yards away from the freaking play, had nothing to do with it,” he said. “It’s a three-and-out and they score on that drive. At some point, I’ll get over it.”

The Pittsburgh incident wasn’t the only conference championship heartbreak that Tannenbaum spoke of.

Tannenbaum also brought up another incident at the onset of the previous conference title game in Indianapolis, a 30-17 Colts win that sent them to Super Bowl 44. During the opening coin toss, referee Tony Corrente accidentally referred to the Jets as the Giants, a more frequent metropolitan visitor to the NFL’s semifinals.

“We’re the New York f’ing Jets, Tony,” Tannenbaum said with a smile. “Every time I see Tony Corrente, all I think about is that he called us the Giants, not the Jets, at the 2009 championship game. Here’s a great official, a cancer survivor, great dude, and I can’t get over it.”

Listen to Tannenbaum’s full appearance here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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