The Jets don’t square off with the NFC’s Packers very often. But today the Green & White will take on the three-time Super Bowl-winning franchise and its vaunted offense led by Aaron Rodgers, who through six games has thrown for 1,546 yards and 10 touchdowns and has been sacked 14 times.
One who knows all about sacking a Green Bay quarterback is former Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons, a member of the New York Sack Exchange. On Dec. 20, 1981, the Jets needed a victory against the Packers and Lynn Dickey to move to 10-5-1 and make the playoffs for the first time since 1969. Going into the game, Lyons knew that their pass rush was going to be crucial.
“It wasn’t a matter of getting to the quarterback,” Lyons said. “It was a matter of how many times we were going to get to the quarterback. We were playing Green Bay in Shea Stadium, it was the last game of the year and we had to win to get in.”
Now the Jets' radio analyst, Lyons remembers that the rest of his crew along that defensive front — Ring of Honor member Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau and Abdul Salaam — were ready to roll.
“If you have two guys like Mark and Joe on the outside, you could bring a four-man front,” Lyons said. “You’d know that you were going to get pressure. Those two guys, they come along very rarely and very rarely do you see them both on the same team.”
It was the third season that the four members of the Sack Exchange played together. They had developed a rhythm and chemistry that allowed them to get to the quarterback with ease. Earlier in the year, the Sack Exchange was invited to ring the ceremonial opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
“Our role was to tie up the center and the two guards and let Joe and Mark do what they did best — which was get to the quarterback," Lyons said. "I was playing on the side with Joe and we didn’t even have to make calls on the line of scrimmage. He would just look at me and I knew that if he decided to take the inside rush on the tackle, I had to take an outside rush because I had to hold containment.”
This Sunday Jets head coach Rex Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine will use their inventive blitzing scheme to attack Rodgers. More and more teams are going with a 3-4 look, deciding to use the speed and agility of linebackers to their advantage on the pass rush. The Jets employ Sean Ellis as a sacker at end, and linebackers
“If you can’t get the pressure from the front three or the front four, you have to send the blitz,” Lyons said. “The Jets are very fortunate that they can disguise their blitz, they can get pressure with their blitz and they have some guys in the back, in the secondary, like Revis and Cromartie that can cover.”
Lyons made sure to give recognition to the 1981 Jets secondary and linebackers, who provided the front four enough time to get to the backfield. In that ever-important finale against the Packers, the Jets didn’t have to blitz, sacking Dickey nine times and forcing him into a 12-for-33, 96-yard, one-interception passing day in the Jets 28-3 victory.
Klecko and Lyons led the way with 2.5 sacks each and Gastineau had two. Klecko finished with 20.5 sacks for the season, Gastineau with 20, and the Jets wound up with 66 sacks, establishing the franchise record that still stands.
“I remember after the game winning and the crowd and all the fans jumping on the field and tearing down the goalposts,” Lyons said. “It was just a moment you’ll never forget because it was more for the team and the fans because the fans celebrated with us after the victory.”