‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Forget Mark Sanchez’s completion ratio. Forget the hard numbers on offense.
There’s just one number needed to understand about how the Jets’ offense is playing these days: 13.
For those who fear that number for any one of those wild superstitions surrounding it, grow up. This is a good thing. It’s the number of touchdowns the Jets have scored over their three-game winning streak.
That streak is what put them in control of their own playoff destiny, by the way. And those 13 touchdowns, which average more than four per game for an offense fans and pundits had left for dead the two games before that, are the reason the Jets head into Philadelphia on an emotional high.
Their work in the Red Zone has been superlative; 11-of-11. And all parts of what had been an inconsistent, floundering group is clicking, especially the resurgent ground game.
“I think we’ve established the run game pretty well,” Sanchez said this week. “We’ve been probably our best since I’ve been here the last three years of scoring when we get down to the Red Zone, scoring touchdowns, not field goals. So that’s been huge, and we need to keep that trend rolling.”
Remember, Sanchez is a quarterback much like Eli Manning, without the production or steady mental nature. Both need all the parts of their offense working to be successful.
And in the Jets’ case, the addition of a now-strong ground game has helped the offense immeasurably. It has taken the heat off Sanchez to throw risky passes. And it’s a rule of thumb in this area, anyway, that when the cold of November and December hits, a strong ground game is the best weapon against whipping winds and falling temps.
Though the area has yet to get harsh, it will. It always does. So Sanchez understands that Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will become ever more valuable these last three games.
“It’s huge,” Sanchez said. “I think those guys are playing their best football right now when we need them to, and that’s huge. I have plenty of time back there and my jersey has been clean the last few weeks. That’s every important, and I let those guys know that.”
Greene, a fumbling mess just a few weeks ago, has turned into the Jets’ most potent armament. In this three-game span, he’s recorded four touchdowns and 295 rushing yards in 59 carries for a healthy 5.0 average.
All that, despite playing with sore ribs.
Tomlinson has done his part, too, more as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Together, they’ve helped the offense get going.
And they’ll have to keep that up against Philadelphia, whose defense is starting to come around after a rocky start. The Eagles are ranked 10th in total defense, but are 18th against the rush. Their 11 rushing touchdowns allowed ranks them 11th.
Just last week in a romp over the Dolphins, the run defense still allowed 109 yards for a 4.2 rushing average.
None of that translates to a carefree walk at Lincoln Financial Field, however. The 5-8 Eagles are angry about their past failures, and they’re desperately trying to pull off a strong end to this lost season.
The easiest way for the Jets to counteract that is to throw a powerful ground game out there, keep Michael Vick off the field, and demoralize the Eagles’ defense, and finish their drives.
It can happen. The Jets have shown that over the last three games.
Maybe 13 isn’t such an unlucky number after all.
Will the Jets make it four in a row Sunday? Sound off below…