AFC East: Broncos-Jets
Over the past few weeks, the New York Jets have evolved from a postseason hopeful to an AFC favorite and legitimate Super Bowl candidate.
In Sunday's 34-17 home loss to the Denver Broncos, the Jets failed to put away a team they should have.
"All we have to do is do what we have done up to this point," Jets quarterback Brett Favre told reporters Wednesday at the team's headquarters in Florham Park, N.J. "It was not our best football the other night."
The Jets aren't the same team that went 4-12 a year ago and now must be ready for an opponent's best effort on weekly basis.
"We have proven that in the previous five games how well we had played," Favre said. "Now people have kind of come to expect that out of us. We need to expect that out of ourselves -- as I think we do -- and expect a team to give us their best.
"All of a sudden now people say, 'Hey, the Jets are pretty good. We have to play pretty good to beat them, and let's knock them off.' Kind of like us going to play Tennessee. We are going to get their best. So we have to play our best.
"We are not good enough yet to think that we can play average and get away with it."
Twelve games apparently signify enough time for a rookie to make an impact -- or even an occasional blip.
This is an exchange from Mangini's news conference on Monday, a day after losing to the Denver Broncos, 34-17, in the Meadowlands:
Could Gholston have gotten more action?
Mangini: "He had a significant shot [Sunday]. There were plays to be made. His opportunities were based on his ability to make those plays."
How many snaps did Gholston have?
Mangini: "I don't remember the exact number, but probably twice as much, or three times as much as the week before."
How did Gholston do?
Mangini: "I think that he needs to continue to improve."
Mangini delivered that last line "through what appeared to be semi-clenched teeth," wrote Newsday reporter Erik Boland.
Gholston signed a five-year, $32.5 million deal. Through his first 12 NFL games, Gholston has yet to start. He was a fearsome pass rusher at Ohio State, but he has four solo tackles and zero sacks.
"In moments, [frustration] has set in," Gholston said, according to Newark Star-Ledger reporter Dave Hutchinson. "You look at the sack total for yourself and you wish you had some.
"But just like the other day, there's a lot of times where I've been close. The biggest thing about sacks is once you get that first one, it can keep on rolling after that."
The Jets, dating to last season, were 9-0 when Jones had a touchdown, and his teams had won 16 straight games when he crossed the goal line.
The AFC's leading runner scored twice Sunday against the Denver Broncos, but the Jets still lost, 34-17, at the Meadowlands.
Jones rushed for 136 yards on just 16 carries. He also had two catches for 21 yards.
Here are some Jones nuggets that illustrate the season he's having:
- With four games to play, he has a career-high 11 rushing touchdowns.
- He needs one more to tie Curtis Martin's single-season franchise record from 2004. Brad Baxter (1991), Johnny Hector (1987) and Emerson Boozer (1972) also scored 11 for the Jets.
- Jones' previous best season was nine rushing touchdowns. He has 10 rushing touchdowns and 12 total touchdowns in his past eight games.
- He eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier for the fourth consecutive season.
- His 8.6-yard average per carry on Sunday raised his season average to 4.7, the best of his nine-year career.
- Jones ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, the longest scoring run of his career. He had a 61-yard run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, but he didn't score.
- He has scored a touchdown in six consecutive games, one off Santana Moss' franchise record from 2003. Tony Paige (1985), Boozer (1967) and Bake Turner (1964) also scored in six straight.
- Jets fullback Tony Richardson has blocked for five running backs in seven 1,000-yard campaigns. The others are Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson.
All of that momentum the New York Jets built up with back-to-back victories over some of the toughest dudes on the AFC block disappeared.
The Jets pulled off one of the greatest two-week road performances by knocking off the New England Patriots and undefeated Tennessee Titans but returned home on Sunday and lost to a team that can't beat the NFL dregs.
The Denver Broncos dropped by the Meadowlands and crushed the Jets 34-17.
The Jets remain atop the AFC East with an 8-4 record, but they should have distanced themselves from the tightly wadded division. The Patriots and Buffalo Bills also lost on Sunday, while the Miami Dolphins were the only AFC East team to win.
Now two teams -- the Dolphins and Patriots -- are one victory behind the Jets with four games to play.
Thomas Jones had another great day with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Brett Favre, however, was mediocre. He completed 23 of 43 passes for 247 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.
Thomas Jones is 50 yards away from reaching the 1,000-yard barrier a fourth consecutive season.
|Al Pereira/Getty Images|
|Jets running back Thomas Jones calls teammate Tony Richardson (above) 'the best fullback in the league.'|
This campaign, however, doesn't belong in the same category as the other three. He's running with more conviction.
With five games left, he already has matched his personal best of nine rushing touchdowns. His 4.4-yard average is his highest since he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. He also has two receiving touchdowns, double his career output heading into the season.
While the first inclination is to credit the Jets' offensive line, an often overlooked benefactor is fullback Tony Richardson, whom the Jets signed as a free agent for just this purpose.
"He is the best fullback in the league hands down," Jones told reporters Friday. "He comes off the ball. He hits guys. He can catch. He can run. He can do it all."
Fifty more yards for Jones would mean Richardson has paved the way for seven 1,000-yard seasons for five different running backs. He previously blocked for Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson.
Richardson has only four touches this year (three carries and one reception), but he has touched several defenders in unkind ways.
"What I really like about Tony, prior to him getting here, was his ability to always find his man," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "It may not have the same thump as it once did, but he is very effective at finding the person he is supposed to block, getting him taken care of and giving the back a chance."
Added Jones: "It makes a humungous difference when you have a fullback like Tony Richardson in front of you."