Right tackle Austin Howard has a name for the situation. “When it’s third-and-short,” he said, “it’s go time.”
And the Jets have green-lighted themselves to the head of the NFL when it comes to converting those plays. For instance, of all the runners who have picked up every third-and-1 they’ve attempted this season, Shonn Greene is first among equals, going 7-for-7 in his carries.
If we extend the definition to third-and-1-or-2 and fourth-and-1-or-2, when the Jets run the ball in those situations, they’re the only perfect team left in the NFL at 13-for-13, and they have also led the league for 2011-12 (27-for-33, 81.8%), 2010-12 (49-for-61, 80.3%), and 2009-12 (76-for-98, 77.6%).
“We definitely want to be the aggressor, be physical on those plays,” said Howard.
“We don’t do any gimmicks, we don’t do anything tricky like that,” LG Matt Slauson added. “Anthony Lynn has a great plan every week. But when you have a line like ours and a big bruiser-type running back like Shonn, we want that responsibility on us. We feel like we’re big and strong and we’re able to get that yard.”
Lynn, the Jets’ RBs coach since ’09, explained the philosophy behind the Green & White’s third-and-short success.
“We want to have more completions and rushing attempts than anybody we play. If you do that, you’re going to win a lot of football games,” Lynn said. “But in order to do that, you have to be able to extend drives. And if you’re committed to running the football, you’re going to find yourself in third-and-short a lot. So we spend a lot of time in the offseason studying that situation and what fits our personnel the best. We really take time and we game-plan it.
“Shonn is built for that situation. He’s a power guy, and a lot of times he gets you more than 1 yard. And when there’s nothing there, you have to have a guy who can win, and he’s done a good job of that. But our double teams up front on the line, those have been outstanding also. Vertical push is something we emphasize a lot in our offense.”
It’s not just about short yardage for Greene and the Jets’ blockers but also about goal line, with many of the same concepts applied to both. But when it comes to GL, it’s been a mixed back for the Jets. Greene’s had two 1-yard touchdown runs this season, vs. Buffalo in the opener and at New England to successfully conclude the opening drive Sunday.
But goal line, considered by the Jets to be plays inside the opponents’ 5-yard line, hasn’t been nearly as successful as the garden-variety short-yardage plays.
“Toward the end of this season, I hope we get back into the top five in the league,” said Lynn. “Right now we’re on the outside looking in. We had a terrible series the last time we played Miami. Those guys do a heck of a job in both situations, short yardage and goal line.”
Indeed, a first-and-goal at the 3 led to a Mark Sanchez end zone interception and a first-and-goal at the 1 yielded only a Nick Folk field goal in the Jets’ overtime win. Meanwhile, the Dolphins scored on a pair of 1-yarders in Game 3, by RB Daniel Thomas and FB Jorvorskie Lane.
This game could also come down to who can do a better job at moving the ball that final 36 inches at key times in the game. And as Slauson said, when the Jets offense is in that situation and a run is called, “We just expect we are going to get it.”
What Goes On in the Pile …
It was one of those small but delightful and ultimately fairly significant plays that happens during the course of many NFL games. Recall late in the first quarter of the Jets-Patriots game when Shonn Greene caught a pass, was hit by LB Jerod Mayo and lost the ball. After Greene was surrounded by no fewer than five Patriots and a few of his teammates joined in, who should come out of the pile with the ball but No. 87 in green and white.
Where did Konrad Reuland come from?
“I was on the other side of the field,” Reuland recalled. “I saw the ball get knocked loose and I saw Shonn kind of straddling the ball, almost, reaching for it down by his legs. I knew he was going to be fighting for it with three or four guys.
“And I just said, you know what? I’m going to dive in there and see if I can find this thing and get a hand on it.”
Nineteen seconds of real time passed from when Reuland muscled Devin McCourty out of the way and burrowed into the mass of bodies to when he popped back out holding his prize aloft and saying, audible on the game video: “I got it! I got it!”
The CBS broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms captured this unlikely turn of events as they analyzed the replay.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a fumble,” said Simms. “And what a job by Reuland getting under this pile and getting that football.”
Nantz: “Look, he’s nowhere even in the frame here … he’s still not in the frame.”
“He’s still not in the frame,” Simms echoed.
Nantz: “I tell you what, then he comes in at the last minute. Great play by Reuland.”
RBs coach Anthony Lynn was also in agreement. “That was an outstanding play by Konrad. You talk about hustling to the football.”
Needless to say, the Jets ultimately lost the game in overtime, but it’s not too hard to see Reuland helping to keep this game close with his recovery. The Pats, who had just opened a 14-7 lead, would’ve had the ball back at the Jets 49. Another quick six for Tom Brady and friends and things could’ve snowballed. Instead, the Jets punted, the Patriots took over at their 20 and also punted. Close game on.
Reuland wasn’t necessarily known as a fumble mole before, but he said he did the same thing for San Francisco in a preseason game this summer.
“The way I look at it,” he said, “until they’ve ruled it the other team’s ball, I’m fighting for it because you never know.”
One perhaps final note: The Patriots statistical crew didn’t award the recovery to Reuland. They said Greene recovered his own fumble. Perhaps the play will be reviewed and the record set right. But as No. 87 said, “I’m willing to give it Shonn. Let him get credit for it. Either way, the fact that our team got it is what counts.”
Friday Injury Reports
LB Bart Scott (toe) is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game with the Dolphins after sitting out all three practice this week for the first time since injuring his big toe early against the ‘Fins in Miami in Week 3. Scott is joined by RB Bilal Powell (shoulder) and NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) as doubtfuls.
But the rest of the squad seems to be ready to suit up for the rivalry game, and that includes NT Sione Po‘uha (back), S Eric Smith (knee), C Nick Mangold (ankle), TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist) and RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), all listed as questionable. All were limited at today’s practice except for McKnight, who was a DNP for the third time this week.
“For Sione, it’s not just about being able to protect yourself but being effective,” Ryan said. “I feel good about that. I think Sione will play.”
The rest of the Jets were full practicers and are probable for the game.
The Dolphins added two players to Friday’s report in DE Cameron Wake (neck, limited), and S Reshad Jones (heel, full). But they seem in fine health for the game with Wake, Jones, RB Daniel Thomas (concussion), LB Koa Misi (hamstring) and S Jimmy Wilson (ankle) listed as probable, while starting CB Richard Marshall (back) didn’t practice today and is listed as out.
Tags: Anthony Lynn, Austin Howard, Jim Nantz, Konrad Reuland, Matt Slauson, Miami Dolphins, Phil Simms, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, Sione Pouha, third-and-1
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