EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After what they went through to make the playoffs, what a waste it would have been to exit early.
That was the message Herman Edwards gave his New York Jets. They heeded it superbly, routing the befuddled Indianapolis Colts 41-0 on Saturday.
After barely getting into the postseason, the Jets emphatically showed they belong, with their biggest playoff victory and their first postseason shutout. Chad Pennington, the sparkplug of their turnaround, threw for three touchdowns, LaMont Jordan ran for two, and the defense had Peyton Manning and the Colts off-stride from the outset.
"I am so proud of my teammates to see in every one of them that they are not complacent," Pennington said. "To me, it's special when you're able to step in the huddle and see the intensity and focus in the eyes of your teammates."
New York (10-7) began the season 1-4, but won seven of its last nine to storm to the AFC East title on the final day of the season. The surge continued against the wild card Colts (10-7).
"This is a breath of fresh air, but it is only the first win on a long road," Wayne Chrebet said.
The Jets will be at either Oakland or Tennessee next weekend. It was their first postseason victory since 1998, when they made it to the AFC championship game, and the score matched the last playoff game at the Meadowlands, when the Giants beat Minnesota for the 2000 NFC title.
"I'm 82-0 in my last two playoffs here," said safety Sam Garnes, who was with those Giants. "It definitely feels good to do 41-0 as a Jet."
The only more lopsided shutout win in NFL postseason history was Chicago's 73-0 victory over Washington for the 1940 title.
This was the first NFL playoff game featuring two black head coaches. The Colts' Tony Dungy and the Jets' Edwards, longtime friends, are the only black head coaches in the league. Edwards spent five seasons as Dungy's top assistant in Tampa before becoming the Jets' coach in 2001.
The student came out on top of the mentor because his offense was unstoppable, his defense stingy and his special teams dominant.
"I'm just thankful for our friendship and the chance he gave me to stand here and be a head coach," Edwards said.
Dungy said he'll be rooting for Edwards' team the rest of the way.
"They played awfully well and made us look awfully bad," said Dungy, who took Indianapolis from 6-10 to 10-6 in his first season after being fired by the Bucs.
On the Jets' fifth offensive play, Pennington's screen pass floated into Richie Anderson's hands and he rambled down the left side for a 56-yard score. The touchdown was the longest of his 10-year career, the longest this season for the Jets and the longest scoring play from scrimmage in their playoff history.
The Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison connection got the Colts moving - for just about the only time - immediately after the TD with three completions for 38 yards. But Mike Vanderjagt was short and wide with a 41-yard field goal into the wind.
John Hall made one from the same spot early in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
Troy Walters then fumbled the kickoff and Ray Mickens pounced on it at the Indianapolis 39. Jordan eventually swept left from the 1 for a 17-point lead.
It became 24-0 with 37 seconds remaining in the first half when Pennington rolled out and found Santana Moss alone in the right corner of the end zone. Moss grabbed the high throw and barely got both feet in-bounds.
In matching their biggest playoff output in a half, the Jets effectively secured their spot in the next round of the playoffs. But they didn't pull back. Chad Morton ran the second-half kickoff 70 yards to the Indy 19, setting up Hall's 39-yard field goal. Rookie tight end Chris Baker caught his first TD pass, a 3-yarder late in the third quarter. And Jordan, who rushed for 102 yards (89 in the second half), scored again from the 1 in the fourth period.
Manning was a miserable 14-for-31 for 137 yards and two interceptions, and his team had the ball for just 19:42 - 7:44 in the second half.
Manning, who consistently barked instructions to his teammates at the line of scrimmage - often to no avail as New York's aggressive defense applied steady pressure - is 0-3 in the playoffs, and this was the worst of those defeats.
"I tried to be patient," Manning said, "but I got to be impatient because the more you get in the hole, they more they take you out of your game plan. So I ended up doing a lot of things I shouldn't have."
He wasn't helped by six drops and an offensive line that couldn't keep pressure off him. Harrison, who smashed the NFL record with 143 receptions this season, had only four Saturday.
"This was more than we could ask for," Jets linebacker Marvin Jones said. "But the job isn't done."
Notes: Pennington, the league's most efficient passer, wound up 19-for-25 for 222 yards. ... Donnie Abraham and James Darling had the interceptions. ... Pennington tied the team record for TD passes in a playoff game, held by Joe Namath in the 1968 AFL championship game vs. Oakland, and Vinny Testaverde last year in a loss to the Raiders. ... The only other playoff game between the franchises was the Jets' 1969 Super Bowl win. ... The much-maligned Giants Stadium turf was not a factor, even though it was chewed up by the second quarter.