Jets S Kerry Rhodes runs back an intercepted Mark Bulger pass during the Jets win over the Rams. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
No letdown against a weak opponent this week as the Jets forced five St. Louis turnovers and totally dominated the Rams 47-3 at home.
The win sets up a big prime-time showdown against the Patriots as the Jets travel to Foxboro on Thursday night where the winner will leave with sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
Posted on the wall of the Jets’ locker room was their pre-game routine. “12:03 Early birds; 12:05 Returners; 12:13 Skill players… 12:54 Leave locker room; 1:02 Kickoff.”
What the list failed to mention was “1:03 Dominate the Rams.”
Gang Green came out strong against St. Louis Sunday and never stopped flexing. Not when the defense was on its heels in the third quarter, not when Dwight Lowery committed two penalties that kept alive a Rams’ drive deep in Jets territory, and certainly not when Kellen Clemens came in for some garbage time with 11 minutes to play.
Brett Favre (14-for-19, 167 yards and a touchdown) “managed” the game, favoring but not locking in on TE Dustin Keller, who had six catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.
On the ground Thomas Jones carried the Jets, rushing for 149 yards. He crossed the goal line three times, tying his season-high for touchdowns in a game.
“The way Thomas has been running through the season has really been a tone-setter,” head coach Eric Mangini said. “He feeds off of the offensive line and the offensive line feeds off him. It’s’ fun to watch his style of play.”
While it’s said that it’s never easy, Jones made it look just that as he ran through truck-sized holes made by the offensive line and fullback Tony Richardson.
“I’m lucky to be able to run behind those guys,” Jones said. “They’re one of the best offensive lines in the league. We’ve developed a nice chemistry since we’ve been able to play together for a little bit now. Everything worked out well today.”
OL Damien Woody was happy to see his teammate have such a great performance.
“It’s good for the offensive linemen to have your homeboy have stats like that,” Woody said. “He went hard. The guys up front all the way around did a great job of blocking.”
Jones went to work early, taking the first play from scrimmage 20 yards. It sparked an eight-play, 80-yard drive that spanned 4:33, capped off by none other than Jones himself taking the ball in from 13 yards out.
“The line was coming off and I was in the zone, making my reads,” Jones said. “Laveranues Coles I think was on the side that I ended up cutting back to and he did a good job of blocking the corner and pinning him inside.”
Jones second score was a two-yard run in the second quarter, and his third came in the fourth when he carried several would-be tacklers six yards for pay-dirt.
Jones was hardly the only headache for St. Louis, however, as its offense struggled wire-to-wire.
Gang Green’s defense was stout and powerful as it rendered the Stephen Jackson-less Rams helpless. Their running game featured five ball-carriers that totaled 80 yards. In the air, Marc Bulger and Trent Green combined for 135 yards and two interceptions.
“It was embarrassing,” Rams head coach Jim Haslett said. “It was bad football. I can’t even describe it. It was bad.”
Every time the Rams got something started, the Jets played the spoiler card, forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them. All five turnovers resulted in points for New York. The most life St. Louis showed was in the third quarter. Two Dwight Lowery penalties—one on 3rd-and-4 that gave the Rams a new set of downs—helped St. Louis get down to the Jets’ one-yard line, but Trent Green’s pass to Donnie Avery was picked off by Hank Poteat.
Kerry Rhodes, who had an interception and a tipped ball that resulted in Poteat’s interception, credited Abram Elam (2 tackles, 2 assists, 1 sack and a forced fumble) for helping him play better.
“[Elam] is a guy you can depend on,” Rhodes said. “Me and Abe have a little thing goin’. Since he came last year when he was in I play a lot better.”
The quarterback of the defense and an extension of a coach on the field, Rhodes said he doesn’t have to worry about Elam making plays, which makes it easier for him on the field.
“He’s a really smart player,” Mangini said of Elam. “He works really hard at his craft and he gave us a lot of good plays last year. I didn’t expect any drop-off when he went in for Eric [Smith].”
After a Jay Feely field goal that made it 10-0 in the first, the Jets defense hit St. Louis in the mouth when S Abram Elam got into the backfield and forced Marc Bulger to put the ball on the ground. LB Calvin Pace picked it up and took it 50 yards for a touchdown. It was Elam’s first career sack and Pace’s first career touchdown.
Unfortunately for St. Louis, the nightmare was only beginning as the Jets topped their 17-point first quarter output by chalking up 23 in the second.
After a 2-yard Thomas Jones touchdown and two field goals by Feely, Brett Favre found Dustin Keller in the back of the end zone for a one-yard score to make it 37-0 inside the two-minute warning of the first half.
“It’s been a dream every night, ever since I’ve been drafted to be able to make plays like that when given the opportunity,” Keller said.
Favre called this his most complete game of the season.
“The mantra at halftime was to remember the Arizona game and we did,” Favre said. “We played well enough in the second half to erase the Arizona game. Our offensive line and our defense today were outstanding.”
Favre credited both Jones and Keller for making his job easier, being able to pick his spots with the ball.
New York made a statement before halftime when LB Eric Barton recovered a Kenneth Darby fumble and instead of taking a knee, set up a field goal that Jay Feely nailed from 55 yards out, tying a Jets team record.
Now, the Jets have little time to prepare for a road trip to Foxboro as it faces New England Thursday night in a divisional showdown for sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
“It’s an exciting time right now, the way we’re playing (and) the opportunities that are in front of us,” Favre said.
40-Point Halftime Lead Among Largest in History
Taking a 40-point lead into halftime today, the Jets tied the 1923 Chicago Cardinals for the third largest halftime lead in NFL history. In 1983 Green Bay had a 42-point lead over Tampa Bay, and in 2006 the Chicago Bears led San Francisco by 41 at the half.
Jones Sitting Pretty
Thomas Jones’ three rushing touchdowns gave him nine total for the season, tying his career high set in 2005 with Chicago.
With his 149 yards, Jones now leads the AFC in rushing with 750 yards on 160 carries. He is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
While this was not the most yards Jones has gained this season, it has to feel better being that his most yards came in the heart-breaking loss at Oakland when he ran for 159 yards in the 13-10 Jets’ OT loss.
Brett Favre was not certain if he was hit today when asked about it.
“We had that one fumbled snap when Rob (Turner) came in,” Favre said. “Honestly, I don’t think so. I felt worse before the game. I felt 39 before the game today, so believe me, I was hoping I didn’t get hit today, and I didn’t.”
When later asked if something was wrong with him before the game, he said no.
“Feeling old,” he laughed. “Just old joints aching a little bit.”
Grading the Jets
Jets only punted once, a testament to their offense eating up the clock and churning out the yards. Brett Favre didn’t turn the ball over, and Gang Green scored every time it touched the ball in the first half. Thomas Jones had plenty of room to run thanks to Tony Richardson and the offensive line, which didn’t allow as much as a sack.
The offense had the opportunities it had thanks to the defense, which was formidable in preventing the Rams from doing anything. Two interceptions, three recovered fumbles, and St. Louis only scored three having never reached the end zone. The only thing keeping a plus out of the D’s grade is in the third quarter when the Rams got down to the Jets’ one-yard line thanks in-part to CB Dwight Lowery’s two crucial penalties that kept the Rams’ offense on the field.
Special Teams: A-
Jay Feely didn’t miss a field goal attempt, going a perfect 4-for-4 and tying a Jets team record with his 55-yarder before halftime. He was 5-for-5 in the extra point department, and on punt returns, the Jets outdid the Rams, totaling 49 yards to St. Louis’ 4. The only reason the Jets didn’t outdo its opponent in kicking return yards is because they only had the opportunity to return one kick, versus the seven St. Louis returned.
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