Updated: 10/4/10 9:11 a.m.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Amid questions he had lost a step and at 31 might be washed up, LaDainian Tomlinson understood he wasn’t in a position to ask for guarantees during his offseason search for a new team.
That’s when Tomlinson met with Rex Ryan, and the New York Jets coach told him all he needed to hear.
“He said, ‘You earn your role on this team. Nobody is given anything,'” Tomlinson said. “That said it all for me.”
Tomlinson recalled the conversation following the Jets 38-14 rout of the winless Buffalo Bills on Sunday, a game in which LT provided the most emphatic statement yet in showing he can still play.
In passing Tony Dorsett for seventh on the NFL career yards rushing list, Tomlinson scored twice while racking up 133 yards rushing to mark the first time he’s broken 100 yards in 25 games — since he was with San Diego.
Who’s over the hill now?
“Somebody forgot to tell him he’s whatever age he is,” Ryan said. “I thought he was going to be outstanding. But he’s already better than that.”
Tomlinson, who signed with the Jets a month after being cut by San Diego, provided all the credit to Ryan.
“You want to run through a brick wall for him,” Tomlinson said.
The Bills’ banged-up and porous run defense won’t be mistaken for a brick wall any time soon, but it’ll do.
Led by Tomlinson, the Jets (3-1) finished with 273 yards rushing — or 50 more than the Bills had on offense — on the way to winning their third straight, all against AFC East rivals.
Tight end Dustin Keller scored twice in a 1:33 span in the third quarter, while Mark Sanchez completed 14 of 24 for 161 yards and two scores, including a 41-yard pass to Braylon Edwards in a game the Jets never trailed.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, we’re doing all right,” said Sanchez, who has yet to throw an interception in 103 attempts this season. “Even now, I think we still feel like we could be 4-0,” he added, referring to a 10-9 season-opening loss to Baltimore.
The Bills should have such problems.
One of only three teams left without a win, Buffalo’s off to an 0-4 start for the third time since 2001 and eighth time in team history. And the frustrations are suddenly beginning to show as it becomes more apparent the Bills are already well on their way to missing the playoffs for an 11th straight year.
“I’m calling out myself and I’m calling out my teammates,” safety Donte Whitner said before expressing his anger further by using several profanities. “If we continue playing the way we’ve been playing, we’re not going to get a win.”
It looked that bad on both sides of the ball for Buffalo.
The defense allowed 444 yards, a week after allowing 445 — including 200 yards rushing — in a 38-30 loss to New England. In their past three games against the Jets, the Bills have allowed 840 yards rushing alone.
The offense proved equally inept under Ryan Fitzpatrick in his second straight start. Last week, the Bills cut former No. 1 quarterback Trent Edwards, who has since signed with Jacksonville.
“We were a bad football team,” first-year coach Chan Gailey said. “You play that way, you’re not going to win. You’re not going look decent in this league. Today, we were awful.”
Buffalo was so awful it managed 30 yards on its first four possessions, failed to register a first down on eight of 13 drives, and went 0 of 10 on third down. Fitzpatrick finished with a team-best 74 yards rushing and threw touchdown passes to David Martin and Steve Johnson.
For the Jets, things are looking even more promising as they prepare to get several regulars back in preparing to host Minnesota next weekend.
Aside from receiver Santonio Holmes set to return after serving a four-game NFL-imposed suspension, Ryan said there’s a good chance cornerback Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and linebacker Calvin Pace (foot) will be healthy enough to play.
Then there’s the already rejuvenated Tomlinson.
“I know what age I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t play,” Tomlinson said. “I never lost confidence. I always knew I could do it. It was just about having an opportunity.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.