Commentary

Jets' Greene feasts on Colts defense

Tailback has best game of his career as Ground & Pound takes heat off Sanchez

Updated: October 14, 2012, 10:26 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The key just might have been a steak dinner.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets running backs -- who hadn't enjoyed a great day since Week 1 -- broke bread during the week in an effort to improve communication. Sanchez noted that Shonn Greene ordered the biggest piece of beef they had.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
AP Photo/Bill KostrounShonn Greene bowled over the Colts, running for 161 yards and three touchdowns.

"He eats like a lineman," Sanchez said. "He needed it all today, though. That was good for him."

Greene had a career day Sunday in a 35-9 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts. His 161 yards on 32 carries were both career highs, and he played so well that the Jets' coaching staff just kept dialing up running plays, leaving the pass plays for another day.

"Mark has a hard job by himself," Greene said. "Whatever we can do as an offensive line, running backs, receivers to help him -- guys were just working hard."

The Jets' two other backs also played well, but will need MRIs on Monday. Joe McKnight (71 yards on three carries) had a 61-yard run, but injured his ankle on the third-quarter play. Bilal Powell had 14 yards on four carries and appeared in the locker room with his right arm in a sling. He has a dislocated shoulder, league sources said.

"Hopefully I'll have some more information tomorrow," Jets coach Rex Ryan said of the injuries.

Greene had 27 carries against Buffalo in Week 1, but his previous rushing high of 144 yards was during his 2009 rookie year, against Oakland. That's a long time for a player drafted along with Sanchez, with the idea they would anchor the offense for seasons to come.

The breakout performance was notable in part because Greene hasn't had a strong season. Coming into the Colts game, Greene was 45th among the top 47 running backs, averaging 2.9 yards per carry.

"When you're down and the running game's not going as well as you want, it's easy to give up on it and just be like, 'Whatever,'" Greene said. "But we keep working every week at practice. We keep grinding and grinding and saying it's going to come along, and it did today."

The only other Jets running back to gain more than 150 yards and score three touchdowns in a game was Emerson Boozer on Oct. 15, 1972.

"We wanted to get that big back rolling," Ryan said, "and we knew we were close. We've been working hard, and today we were able to get him going. When Shonn carries it well and has that kind of production, it's great for the entire team."

Sanchez targeted tight ends only twice in the game, in part because the Jets were reinforcing the offensive line with extra blockers. The added protection -- Sanchez was sacked only once -- and improved blocking opened up lanes for Greene to exploit.

"When he gets real low, hell, I wouldn't want to tackle him," Jets receiver Chaz Schilens said of Greene. "When he lowers his shoulders he's almost impossible to tackle.

"He's got it all. There's a reason why he's a starting running back."

As good as Greene played, it's worth noting that the Colts have one of the worst run defenses in the league, allowing 5.1 yards per carry out of their base defense.

"They never stopped the run the whole game," Jets tight end Dustin Keller said of the Colts. "It was something we kept on going with and going with, and it worked."

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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