There couldn't have been a starker contrast between two offensive showings than the Jets' nine-point output against Baltimore in Week 1 and their ground-pounding onslaught at Buffalo on Sunday. For a unit that had several new parts in place going into the season, the key for team leaders like left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson was to bring the same level of play on every single snap.
"From the beginning of the season we've said we always wanted to get to the big games, go to the Super Bowl," Ferguson said. "We always wanted to be the No. 1 team and a team people didn't want to face. Despite our first game, our second game and even our last game, we've always tried to be consistent. We didn't allow our lows to get too low and allow our highs to get too high. I just think we're a confident team and we're going to carry that throughout the season."
The 38 points that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's group threw on the scoreboard in Orchard Park, N.Y., was not even indicative of what could have occurred. By quarterback Mark Sanchez's postgame math, the Jets left 11 points on the field in the first quarter alone and didn't score at all in the fourth quarter.
It all started with the offensive line and the running attack, which mustered 273 yards on the ground, as the Jets improved to 3-1 and 3-0 in the division. Last year they started 3-1 but finished the season only 2-4 in the AFC East, a mark they assured themselves they won't repeat. After defeating the Patriots at home and the Dolphins and Bills on the road, head coach Rex Ryan's crew has put itself in a favorable position moving forward.
"I think last year we didn't take advantage of that opportunity," Ferguson said. "Now we've gone out and we've played three division games and have been successful and it will really allow us to be in the position we want to be seen in as No. 1."
The next test for Gang Green is an NFC foe that fell short in its conference championship game last season, just like the Jets. The Vikings feature former Green & White signalcaller Brett Favre, one of the best running backs in the NFL in Adrian Peterson, and a tough defense that will surely test Sanchez's so-far-unflappable mettle and offensive mastery.
"I know they're a talented defense," Ferguson said. "I know obviously Jared Allen is a perennial Pro Bowler, so it's going to be important to do film study on what he does as well as what the defense offers. Seeing Favre, I think that'll be interesting again, given that he played with us. At the end of the day I think it'll be great for competition and I think we'll be excited to go out there and really show what we can do."
In the weeks after the Ravens game, the Jets' offense has grown stronger, even without one of its dynamic weapons. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes will be returning from a four-game suspension to put his skills on display against the Vikings. Brick believes the former Super Bowl MVP will be ready to roll come Monday night.
"I think it's really huge," Ferguson said. "Santonio is an excellent player and I think he's going to add another weapon to our offense. Having him in the rotation is going to be huge for us, and I think it'll definitely be a benefit. Even that last preseason game before he had to leave, he said, 'Hey, man, just hold it down and when I come back I'm definitely going to do what I can to make sure we are where we need to be.' I think he's a passionate player and we definitely rally behind that."
Wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards along with tight end Dustin Keller and running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene will join Holmes in what looks like someone's fantasy football roster. Sanchez, who has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions through a quarter of the season, seems to be coming into his own as the general of an offense that hopes to be productive in the short and long terms.
"We're excited with who we have and I think Mark is an excellent quarterback and an excellent leader," said Ferguson, Sanchez's blindside protector. "I think he's definitely the future quarterback and I wouldn't have it any other way. I think we'll continue to have success as you've already seen and I think this is the best team that we can put out. The success that we'll have we'll be able to feel for a long time."