Bittersweet shutout of Raiders as Jets lose RB Washington for year with fractured fibula.
OAKLAND, CA – Seasoned observes of football are easily able to discern unique talent at the running back position. The results over a full season usually speak plainly enough, but in terms of snap judgment, several specific qualities can be spotted immediately. Perhaps the most vital of these, whether or not the runner is shifty or a pure brute, is the first step explosion required to exploit even the slightest gash in a defense. Certain rookies, fresh legged and reckless, are capable of jaw dropping acceleration at the moment of opportunity. Shonn Greene definitely fits the bill.
On an afternoon where the Jets desperately sought to reassert themselves, recapture the swagger that had defined their success, they lost a key offensive weapon early. Leon Washington was carted from the proceedings with a broken fibula. But, quite fortunately for the road team, who wore stylish alternate jerseys attributed to their bygone “Titans” moniker, a hungry backup was prepared to assume a heavy responsibility. “I thought as a team, it was a great team effort. We were able to ground and pound it for over three hundred yards, for the second straight week,” said Rex Ryan at his post-game conference. “Again we feel terrible about the injury to Leon, but we feel excited about where our offense is at.”
Thomas Jones seemed deeply affected by the severe injury suffered by his teammate and friend, offering an eloquent take after the clock struck zero. “He’s a great teammate and a great person. From the time he got hurt to the end of the game, after every play I’d think about him,” said the tenacious runner. Jones also offered that an incident like this crystallizes why players are always trying to secure the best contract possible. Washington had been embroiled in a salary dispute with management during training camp that he ultimately set aside for another time. “The risk of injury is high, and guy’s just want to feel secure, man,” said Jones, echoing what most players must feel. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. My prayers go out for his family… he’s one of my best friends.”
There’s no doubt that the Raiders prepared all week for a run heavy Jets attack. Perhaps, after eliminating Washington from the equation, they may have received a respite, forcing Mark Sanchez to assume a burden beyond him. Shonn Greene rose to the occasion however, able to provide healthy support for starter Thomas Jones. New York’s ground-and-pound mentality never came close to being compromised. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dared Oakland to corral a ferocious rush, and the Silver and Black had no answer, besides being reliably shoved backward. The Jets leaned on the run while driving downfield, finishing their marches with power football.
After Calvin Pace forced JaMarcus Russell to cough up possession deep in his own territory on the Raiders’ opening drive, Thomas Jones plowed in a one-yard touchdown. Later, in the second quarter, Shonn Greene rocketed past the line of scrimmage and into the end zone for an eight yard score, the first of his career, but not his last of the game. For Greene’s final punctuation would be spectacular, a thirty-three yard jaunt in garbage time where, once again, his lightening spurring seemed to approach warp speed. When the final statistics could be logged, Jones had compiled 121 yards, and Greene 144. Not to be forgotten was another splendid performance put forth by the offensive line, in perfect rhythm after a slightly inconsistent start to the season. For the second consecutive week, they dominated upfront, brutalizing a hapless Raiders defense that proved powerless even when stacking the box. Bill Callahan and his troops are certainly in the zone, as the Jets approach a pivotal segment of their schedule. “My offensive line did a great job blocking for me,” said Jones. “They were able to maintain their blocks and blow them off the ball.”
As if their superb clock control and mighty ground-game wasn’t enough to secure a win, the Jets defense also imposed their will, making this victory a total team effort. The standout performer was Calvin Pace. In his third appearance since a banned substance suspension kept him on the sidelines through week four, Pace displayed the rare combination of strength and athleticism that made him a sought after prize on the free agent market after the 2007 season. His leaping, sprawling strip of Russell as the game got underway set a definitive tempo that would not waver. Pace would compile three sacks and seven total tackles, scoring another strip while ripping down Bruce Gradkowski in the third. If he can maintain this caliber of play going forward, the whole defense will take on an added, dangerous dimension. “This is a must win,” said Pace after the game, during an on-field interview. “We had to come out here and get one by any means necessary. The offense did their thing with the running game.”
Also encouraging was the continued excellence of the secondary, which, save for an inexplicably poor effort against the Dolphins, has been a consistent highlight. Jim Leonhard placed himself in the right place when he picked off a desperate, ill-advised pass by Russell, who was scurrying away from an onrushing David Harris. The second turnover forced by an aggressive Jets defense in the initial quarter placed the Raiders in a black hole they wouldn’t crawl out of. The Raiders’ best opportunity to compete was snuffed out by Darrelle Revis, who snatched a feathery paint-bound pass intended for Todd Watkins, as the second quarter waned.
Mark Sanchez was placed under a harsh microscope following his disastrous showing against the Bills last week. Sanchez didn’t exactly resoundingly answers his critics, but that was never supposed to be his job in the first place. If everything goes according to plan, Sanchez will play the caretaker role that he executed quite capably today, converting short third downs set-up by the run game with efficient throws, and avoiding careless turnovers. “I think they wanted to see if they could make me beat them,” said Sanchez at his presser, assessing the Raiders’ defensive strategy. “That might have been their plan. But with the way our running game played today, anybody could play quarterback…. Whatever the plan is, we’ve got to stick with what we do and play smart.”
Though he could still do a better job protecting the ball, Sanchez’s deft management was exactly what the afternoon required. And while his accuracy was not top notch, Sanchez’s thirty-five yard touchdown pass to David Clowney, who seems to finally be establishing himself a big-play target, solidified the blowout.
For the Raiders, JaMarcus Russell continued his string of awful quarterbacking, pulled out of the game by head coach Tom Cable.
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