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Thursday, January 13, 2011
D-Gaps: Jets stand tall on 3rd-and-short

By Jason Vida

Our weekly look at stats and notes from the "other" side of the ball.

In the aftermath of the New York Jets’ wild card win, much of the praise has centered around a punishing Jets rushing attack and Mark Sanchez’s skill in leading the drive for the game-winning field goal.

While the Jets offense was great in certain areas on Saturday, the play of their defense, particularly in short-yardage situations, is the primary reason they advanced to the Divisional Playoffs for a second consecutive season.

The Indianapolis Colts converted just twice on their six third-and-one opportunities, with each of their first three possessions ending after they were unable to move the chains in a third-and-one situation. Indianapolis’ results in short-yardage situations were among the worst in a single game in quite some time.

The Colts are the first team to fail to convert on third-and-one four times in a playoff game in the last 10 seasons. During the entire 2010 regular season, a team failed to convert a third-and-one four or more times in a game on just four occasions.

Prior to Saturday, it had been more than eight years since the Colts performed so poorly in third-and-one situations, going 0-4 against the Cleveland Browns in Week 15 of 2002.

The Jets have made a habit of excelling in short-yardage situations under Rex Ryan. Since 2009, only four teams have allowed third-or fourth-and-one conversions at a rate lower than the Jets’ 63.3 percent.

New York’s defense faced just one third-and-one situation in the postseason last year, stoning Peyton Manning on third-and-goal in the second quarter of last year’s AFC Championship.

Matthews will haunt Eagles in offseason
Clay Matthews
Matthews
Just months after shutting down the Philadelphia Eagles offense in a season-opening win (seven tackles, three sacks, game-sealing stop on a late fourth-and-one), Clay Matthews was every bit as impressive in the Green Bay Packers' wild-card win Sunday.

The line in the box score wasn’t quite as full (three tackles, one sack), but, as usual, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Packers went to extremes to put pressure on Michael Vick, sending five or more rushers after the quarterback 18 times on passing plays. Matthews dropped into coverage on half of those plays, and Vick completed six of nine passes for 116 yards when the Packers blitzed but didn’t send Matthews.

Vick was far less effective when Matthews was part of the Packers blitz, hitting on just one of his five passes, being sacked twice, and scrambling twice for a total of two yards.

Hali puts finishing touch on fantastic 2010
Tambi Hali
Hali
He’ll be watching the rest of the postseason, but Tamba Hali deserves credit for putting the finishing touches on a breakout season.

A week after registering 2.5; sacks to finish the regular season with an AFC-best 14.5;, Hali picked up two more against the Baltimore Ravens.

On his first, Hali forced a fumble from Joe Flacco and recovered it himself, setting up the Chiefs' only touchdown two plays later. Hali is the first player with a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a playoff game since Warren Sapp did it for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1997 Divisional Playoffs.