When a team’s run game isn’t going well, everyone wants to pile on the primary tailback.
Insert Shonn Greene.
Greene, who entered the 2012 season as the New York Jets’ supposed bell cow, was averaging less than three yards per carry through five weeks.
But it wasn’t all Greene. New York’s offensive line hadn’t performed up to par, and while Greene had done very little with what he was given, he wasn’t equipped with the appropriate number of carries or blocking that allow a battering ram-style back to be successful.
Greene, however, saw better days ahead, and that came to fruition in Gang Green’s 35-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. Greene rushed for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns as the Jets improved to 3-3.
“Just us believing in ourselves and not giving up,” Greene said after the game.”Just hard days at practice. “When you’re down and the running game’s not going as well as you want, it’s easy to just give up on it and just be like, ‘whatever,’ but we keep working every week at practice.”
“We keep just grinding and grinding and saying it’s going to come along and it did.”
The Jets’ offensive line consistently dominated Indianapolis’ front-seven, even when it was completely obvious New York was lining up to run the ball.
“Yeah, my offensive line did a great job (Sunday),” Greene said. “Lex [Hilliard] did a great job at fullback. The wide receivers blocked down the field. As one offense, one unit, we did a great job.”
It was a renaissance of sorts, resembling the 2009 Jets offense when quarterback Mark Sanchez was merely a rookie.
Sanchez attempted just 18 passes in the game, completing 11 for 82 yards and two touchdowns – one to Stephen Hill and another to Jason Hill.
“When you’re running the ball that well, you never want to stop,” Sanchez said.
Backup tailback Joe McKnight broke off a 61-yard scamper in the game, and the Jets will need more of the same from their offensive backfield moving forward. A good blend of Greene’s short-yardage grinding and McKnight’s explosiveness will keep the pressure off Sanchez and the passing game, who can benefit from a heavy dose of running to set up play action.
“Whatever we need to win,” Sanchez said. “… Look at the Buffalo game, we threw the heck out of it and were really successful through the air. If that’s what we need, then that’s what we have to do. Then, our other win against Miami, just grinding it out and finding a way to win late in the game or in overtime if we have to do that. Wins come in all shapes and forms, so we have to be ready to play specific to that game.
“But I was just proud of the way we rushed it today. A good running game, good defense with three takeaways, solid special teams. Those are all a quarterback’s best friend. I know that from playing a couple of years now and that can’t make your job any easier, so I’m very thankful for those guys and the way they played.”
This Sunday, the Jets will be up against the New England Patriots’ stout run defense, which is giving up just 3.4 yards a carry to opposing running backs.