Martin says Jets must regain fire

(Original publication: January 5, 2005)

HEMPSTEAD There's a feeling in the camps on both coasts that Saturday's Jets-Chargers AFC wild-card game in San Diego might be determined by the first and seventh rushers in the league this season.

But the Jets' Curtis Martin, who ran for 1,697 yards to win his first NFL rushing title, insisted yesterday that his team will need more than a great effort on his part to defeat the Chargers.

San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 1,335 yards and scored 17 touchdowns, doesn't concern Martin.

It's the Jets who cause Martin to fret.

Martin believes the Jets must find a fire, one that has flickered at times in recent weeks. They must stoke it from the get-go Saturday night if they are to end a seven-game Chargers home winning streak that began one week after the Jets beat them in Week 2.

"I think one of the keys is for us to get back to performing with that explosiveness right from the beginning of the game,'' Martin said after the Jets completed a walk-through practice at Hofstra.

The Jets haven't scored a touchdown in the first quarter in nine games. In fact, they have only three field goals in the first quarters of their last nine games. They controlled the ball for 11:53 of the first quarter of Sunday's overtime loss to the Rams but managed only a field goal.

The Jets have scored only two touchdowns in the first quarter in their last 14 games after scoring 14 points in the first quarter in each of their first two games, against Cincinnati and San Diego.

The Jets are fortunate to have a defense that's held opponents to 34 points in the first quarter for the season.

"I'm not saying focus is lacking," Martin said. "I'm saying there is something lacking. And there is something we are not doing, obviously. Whatever that is we have to figure it out, and figure it out quick.''

Martin said the Jets always try to come out swinging and tried to offer a reason why they haven't.

"That's what you continually hope for, but I feel if you don't do anything about it then it's like you keep wishing and hoping for something that never happens,'' Martin said. "I think your wishes and hopes only come true when your actions line up with them. So we have to align our minds. We have to be focused. I think we have to heighten the intensity of our focus. Something.

"We have to make some changes because we have to put some points up on the board. Especially against these teams we're about to go up against in the playoffs.''

While making no apologies that the 10-6 Jets made the playoffs despite a slow finish after an impressive 5-0 start, Martin said he admires the consistency of the 12-4 Chargers, who opened with losses in two of their first three games.

"We definitely need that,'' Martin said. "But I think this team is a team that once we get it, we'll be fine.''

If it's any consolation to the Jets, Martin, in Week 2, and Lee Suggs of the Browns, in Week 14, were the only backs to rush for 100 yards against the Chargers. San Diego boasts the No. 3 run defense in the league and has yielded an average of 81.7 yards per game on the ground.

"I think both football teams are going to make an effort to run the ball, and the ability to defend the run is evident for the Jets as well as us,'' Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said during a conference call yesterday.

The Jets rank No. 3 in the league in rushing, averaging 149.3 yards per game, while the Chargers, led by Tomlinson, average 136.6 and rank No. 6 in that department.

Schottenheimer said he and Jets coach Herman Edwards are both apt to try to establish the run, then proceed from there.

Martin said the Jets would need a team effort.

"It's deeper than something you can create,'' he said. "It's just a unity of effort and a oneness of mind, a oneness of heart. I think the good teams learn to develop that and do that consistently. And I think we're in the process of doing it.''

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