By Steve Silverman
The NFL is clearly a world of what have you done for me lately.
The Jets are no exception to this scenario, and the team pulled off a major shocker with their performance against the Broncos in Week 5. In many ways, the 34-16 victory was reminiscent of their Week 1 48-17 showing against the Lions, as the defense took over and completely shut down one of the better offensive teams in the league.
This time it was the offense that took over, put its signature on the game, and made everyone at MetLife Stadium think “who are these guys in the green and white,” because it sure didn’t look like the Jets.
The Jets suddenly had the most explosive running game in football. Not in professional football, but all of football. In the end, it looked like one of those college box scores where the winning team scores 56 points and runs for 450 yards.
Well, not quite, but it was a brilliant running performance by a team that is known for 110-yard rushing games and averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry. Instead, the Jets ran for 323 yards and 8.5 yards per carry against a Denver team that may have some weaknesses but is known for its ability to play defense.
Isaiah Crowell had a day that players dream about, as he carried the ball 15 times for 219 yards that included a 77-yard TD run and another explosion for 54 yards. To say it was the best day of his career doesn’t begin to tell the story, as it was just the eighth game in which he has rushed for 100 yards or more in his five-year career.
This was the 69th game of his career, and his previous career best was 145 yards. His 14.6 yards per carry mark was the best in NFL history by any player with 15 or more rushing attempts in a game.
As good as it was for Crowell, partner Bilal Powell was a huge factor as well, adding 99 yards on 20 carries, and showing off his elusiveness with a 38-yard run.
When the Jets have a running game, it allows everyone to breathe easier, including a rookie quarterback who has been under the spotlight since that day in late April that the Jets made him the focus of the franchise and drafted him.
Sam Darnold did not have the kind of game that reminded fans of super-accurate quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, but he was solid and smart and dangerous as he completed 10 of 22 passes for 198 yards with three touchdowns and just one interception.
One of those scores was a 76-yard, old-fashioned bomb to Robby Anderson, who got over the top of the defense and Darnold hit him in stride. Anderson caught one other scoring pass, and so did Terrelle Pryor on his only target of the day.
The defense gave up a first-quarter touchdown pass to Case Keenum, but that unit basically shut down the Denver offense after that until the quarterback hit Demaryius Thomas with a garbage-time touchdown.
It was an afternoon of beauty for the Jets, and the kind of performance that great teams give their fans.
That’s what is so perplexing about this game. It was such a dominant game that it’s hard to know what to make of it. The Jets are not going to run for 323 yards every game and have 521 yards of total offense, because no team can do that.
Even with their dominance against the Broncos, the Jets still rank 26th on offense.
So the more you think about what the Jets have done, the more it seems like it may be a fluke.
That’s what the Jets are going to have to prove over the next few weeks – that it was anything but a one in a thousand performance.
While Crowell and Powell are not likely to come close to those yardage totals, the offensive line was brilliant and powerful. If that group – led by center Spencer Long and right tackle Brandon Shell – can repeat that intensity, toughness and continue to play with hunger, good things are on the horizon.
The Jets host the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings the next two weeks before going on the road against the suddenly ferocious Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins.
They will have their opportunity to prove that this performance against the Broncos was not a fluke. Jets fans will soon leave the dream-like phase that they are in from a remarkable and shocking performance.
The good thing is that they have done it once, and they know what it takes to do it again. It takes a certain professionalism and consistency to do it again, and that’s the focus that the Jets must have over the next month.
If they do, this could turn out to be a remarkable year. If not, the performance against the Broncos will turn out to be a one-time tease, and perhaps an even more cruel showing than Jets fans are used to seeing.