Jets’ Run Defense Keeps Opponents in Neutral

Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini called yesterday’s 26-17 win over the Buffalo Bills as “probably our most complete game that we’ve had so far this season” but it was the Jets’ run defense that propelled Gang Green to a victory yesterday and a three-way tie atop the AFC East. The Jets allowed just 30 yards rushing on 17 carries (1.8 avg) against a Bills offense that featured the dangerous Marshawn Lynch. Prior to yesterday’s defeat, Lynch had rushed for atleast 44 yards (Oct. 5 at Arizona 12 att, 44 yards) in seven games this season and in no game did he rush for less than three yards per carry. Lynch did have a season-high 52 yards receiving on three catches yesterday, but that statistic did little to carry the Bills.

Through eight games this season, the Jets are allowing an average of 76 rushing yards per game, ranking them fourth in the NFL behind the Ravens (64.3 yards/game), Vikings (69.6) and Steelers (71.6). Their defense is also allowing an average of 312 total yards per game, which ranks 13th in the NFL.

This Sunday the Jets will another talented running back, when they meet Steven Jackson and the 2-6 St. Louis Rams. Through eight games this season Jackson has carried the ball 128 times for 525 yards (4.1 avg.) and four touchdowns. Jackson has widely been regarded as one of the league’s top running backs after posting 1,000 yard rushing seasons in three of his first four seasons in the NFL, but the Rams’ offense has not matched the ‘fun-and-gun’ style it perfected in past seasons. With quarterback Marc Bulger banged up for much of this season, opposing defenses are obviously centering on Jackson. Even though Jackson is on-pace for another 1,000 yard season, the Rams’ run offense has been stagnant this year. St. Louis is averaging 94 yards per game on the ground, ranking them 19th in the NFL. Perhaps the drop in production is a result of the Rams’ depth at running back.

Jackson’s 128 carries represent 66 percent of the total carries for the team this season. The team’s backup running back is second-year  back Antonio Pittman, who has carried the ball 30 times for 101 yards (3.4 avg.) If Jackson is unable to emulate his Pro Bowl stature, Bulger will be in for a long and rigourous afternoon.

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