We had to stop Doug Martin.
As a rookie last year, the Buccaneers RB averaged 90.9 rushing and 29.5 receiving yards per game for a grand total of 1,926 yards from scrimmage and a Pro Bowl berth.
"That dude is tough," head coach Rex Ryan said. "He's a great back, there's no question about it."
"We knew he was a great running back," DE Muhammad Wilkerson said. "We just didn't want him to get going."
Aside from a handful of plays, including a 5-yard touchdown run immediately following QB Geno Smith's fumble and a 17-yard run on the Bucs' final drive, the Jets kept the second-year Boise State product grounded. He was held to 65 rushing yards on 24 attempts (2.7 avg.).
"That's all he had?" DT Sheldon Richardson asked about his ground yards. "That's too much. But he's a great guy. They had a great plan, but we executed."
"We kept our big tackles out there," Ryan said, even when Tampa Bay had more than two wide receivers on the field.
Safety Dawan Landry credited the D-line, the LBs and his head coach's playcalls for stopping Martin from doing too much damage.
"Anytime you get disruption like that in the front seven and you limit a guy like that, it's big for us," he said. "They were able to hunt the whole game. It made it easy for us on the back end."
Landry was involved in two game-changing plays. Both occurred toward the end of a half. One was good, and one was not.
In the second quarter, QB Josh Freeman heaved a ball toward WR Vincent Jackson on third-and-7, but he overthrew his 6'5" receiver and the ball landed in the arms of Landry, who returned it for 38 yards. Then Smith found Kellen Winslow on the subsequent drive for a touchdown.
"The front four got pressure on him, forced a high throw," Landry said, "and I was just in the right place at the right time."
Of course, you still need to make the play even if you're in the right place at the right time. Two quarters later with the Bucs down a point and less than two minutes left in the game, Landry was where he needed to be, but he said, "I just missed the tackle." Jackson caught the ball near midfield, slipped past Landry and nearly sprinted in for the go-ahead touchdown. LB Demario Davis chased him down from behind and dived for the shoestring tackle at the Jets 26.
"I was fortunate enough to get to him and make the tackle," Davis said. "We practice running to the ball, and speed's just an attribute God blessed me with and it came in handy."
Rex took the blame for the call on the 37-yard catch and run. "It wasn't clearly communicated from my end, and that was a huge mistake," he said. "It was my fault."
Luckily, it didn't matter in the end. Davis' tackle turned out being a game-saver, as Tampa Bay settled for a field goal and the Jets were able to march down the field with 34 seconds on the clock and no timeouts for the winning 48-yard field goal.
While a few thousand fingernails might be a bit shorter, the Green & White were "resilient," as both Wilkerson and Ryan said, and the Jets will go into Thursday night's game in Foxboro, Mass., with some momentum.
"We fought all the way to the end," Ryan said. "One team, one fight. Holy cow. We'll take it, there's no question."
Jets fans, rejoice. We had to stop Doug Martin, and we did.
Next up: Tom Brady and the Patriots. "Any time you have a chance to get a win," Landry said, "especially opening up at home, it feels good. We've got New England next week, so we're moving on to New England right now."