Jets RB Curtis Martin needs just 294 yards to have eleven consecutive 1000-yard rushing seasons. A feat that has never been achieved in NFL history. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Picking through the shards the day after another gut-wrenching defeat is as bad, if not worse, than the immediate bitterness in the locker room after the game. And with the Jets season all but a formality, sources of motivation are hard to come by.
But if any Jets players are having trouble getting up in the morning, they need not look further than Curtis Martin. The Jets iron horse needs no introduction, and despite limping through his worst season – statistically, speaking – in New York, Martin is the paradigm for resiliency. Last night, as the Jets dropped a 21-19 contest to the Saints, Martin managed to sprinkle a glimmer of hope on a snoozer of a prime time game.
When Martin scampered for 23 yards with 7:33 left in the first quarter last night, he managed to etch his name alongside a stable of elite running backs. He joined Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269) as the only backs in NFL history to rush for over 14,000 yards.
Despite an ovation from the crowd, Martin, the consummate professional, didn’t stop to acknowledge the fans because the play happened in the middle of the drive. The game wasn’t stopped for a ceremony ala Tim Brown; it was just a fleeting moment, but one that will not be forgotten.
“He’s so focused in the game a lot of times he doesn’t think about that stuff,” Edwards said.
Martin said after the game his mind was focused on winning, and each week the Jets go without a ‘W’ is unsuccessful.
“As a professional, you would trade all the milestones for a win,” Martin said after the game. “It really doesn’t matter if we are going to the playoffs or not, 3-8 would have meant everything to me.”
Still, after the run Martin came off the field and Edwards walked to him. The two have been close since Edwards arrived in New York five seasons ago, and the coach shook Martin’s hand. Edwards made the potential for history a point in Friday’s team meeting, and Martin was surprised. But Edwards felt it was something the team should be cognizant of because it permeates through the team, and Martin isn’t done.
“We have a couple goals down the road here,” Edwards said. “Winning some games…and obviously for Curtis Martin to set this record. It’s important for this football team.”
In his 10 seasons, Martin, 32, has rushed for over 1,000 yards each time. He’s the only running back ever to stake that claim. st’s a credit to his durability. In a season as mentally and physically taxing for the Jets (2-9) as this, even Martin has taken a hit.
Last week, in the midst of a 27-0 loss at Denver, Martin was lost in the shuffle. He carried the ball four times for seven yards, which is a reflection more of the team’s struggles than his. Speculation by media both locally and nationally has been that Martin is on the down slope of his career, but combine the offensive line’s injuries and the quarterbacking woes with Martin’s injured knee, and it’s more like Martin has persevered through a tormenting season.
Before last night, he only had 615 yards going into last night and was averaging a slim 3.4 yards per carry. Against the Saints he ran for 91 yards on 24 carries, but 77 came in the first half when the Saints defense wasn’t gearing on the run completely.
Asked if Martin was wearing down and was contemplating retirement, Edwards side-stepped the question. “I won’t speculate on speculation,” said Edwards, repeating verbatim Jets owner Woody Johnson’s words last week about Edwards’ coaching status. “I’m going to leave that alone.”
Likely Martin will reach his coveted 1,000 yards this season and will return for a 12th season in 2006, but he isn’t a football immortal. His records are a testament to his durability, and whether the sun is setting on Martin’s career, that doesn’t change the type of player he’s been.
“He doesn’t have a nickname, he doesn’t slam the ball, he doesn’t dance,” Edwards said. “He just makes yards and he’s made them for a lot of years.”
Tailor Made. If Brooks Bollinger looked more comfortable and decisive in the pocket last night, it’s because he was. The quarterback, who can run, finally had a game plan designed to fit his strengths and allowed him to make quick reads. If a receiver wasn’t open, Bollinger had two options: run or throw it away.
“I thought Brooks played pretty well,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “I think Mike and the offensive coaches did a good job of game planning and putting guys in position to make some plays.”
Bollinger’s 251 yards marked the first time since Chad Pennington on opening day that a Jets quarterback threw for over 200 yards. The 360 yards of total offense was also a season-high. However, the Jets faltered upon reaching sniffing distance of the end zone. Five times the Jets cracked the Saints’ 30-yard line, but “the only bad thing was that we came up with one touchdown, the rest were field goals,” Edwards said.
Yet after turning the ball over 14 times coming into the game, the Jets, who are at minus-9 on the season, didn’t fork over the ball once.
“That’s always a key,” Edwards said.
Kudos To You. The paid attendance to last night’s game was 77,152, but anyone with a functioning set of eyes could see Giants Stadium was half empty. A pair of 2-8 teams battling for little more than draft position was devoid of storylines, let alone interest. The 8:37 p.m. kickoff didn’t help matters, either. Yet today at Hofstra Edwards had kind words for the fans that stuck out last night’s game.
“I think we’ve got some good fans,” Edwards said. “They’re used to winning, we’re used to winning, but they came out and supported us…They were very vocal. We go out on the road and we see our fans by the hotels. They’ve been very supportive of this football team given the circumstances we’re facing right now.”
-Jerricho Cotchery was the Jets; leading receiver yesterday with 72 yards. When Bollinger and Cotchery connected for 33 yards with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter, wrote a bit of history. It was the longest pass of Bollinger’s career and the most yards Cotchery ever gained on a reception.
-Doug Jolley’s had four catches (for 62 yards) last night was as many catches as the Jets first-year tight end had in the previous six games.
Edwards said QB Jay Fiedler may begin throwing this week. Fiedler is likely targeting Dec. 18 when the Jets visit Miami to return.
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): out
-RB Derrick Blaylock (foot): out
-CB David Barrett (eye): questionable
-DT Sione Pouha (calf): questionable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): probable
The team has tomorrow off and returns to practice to begin preparation for the Patriots on Wednesday. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all of the latest news.