The Jets' playoff push has just barged its way into the final quarter of the season. And it's no longer good enough for the Green & White to be 60-minute men. They have to be 240-minute men now, 60 minutes at a time four times, beginning this afternoon with the Chiefs at MetLife Stadium.
"We're just focused on Kansas City," Mark Sanchez, coming off his 30th victory as the Jets' starting quarterback and his second straight fourth-quarter comeback win, during the week. "We'll let the wild card happen when it happens, but we're just focused right now on the next game.
"I just think that we have a burning desire to get in the playoffs, I'm sure as do most teams," said head coach Rex Ryan. "I can tell you our team wants to get in the playoffs. Not to be one and done, but we think we can do some damage when we get there. So I think that's it. It's right there. You've got to get the eight wins. We have to get to eight wins this week."
Everyone has thoughts on what the Jets need to do to get to No. 8 today — players, reporters, fans. This week a number of Jets alumni came to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for an event, and we caught up with several of them, one who played the defensive side of the ball, one from the offense, and one whose specialty was special teams, to see what their thoughts were as the Jets embark on this most telling quarter of the season.
Former Sack Exchange era linebacker Greg Buttle said for starters, it's not strictly a matter of not knowing what's on the road ahead after their desired KC masterpiece today.
Buttle: You're Not Allowed to Relax
"Every player looks ahead, there's not a question," said Buttle, as always one of the strong voices on the Green & White as he works the pre- and postgame shows on the Jets Radio Network. "Everybody in that locker room knows what their schedule is, who they're playing, whether it's home or away. The question is can you compartmentalize future games and put that in the back of your brain and do what you have to do in front of you?
Which, Buttle added, takes an incredible amount of concentration.
"You're not allowed to relax," he said. "You're not allowed to be in the third quarter, up by 10 points, and say, 'OK, we got 'em.' You've got step on their necks. And this is what this defense does not have this year, is that killer instinct. So I think part of it is concentration, and you've got to be able to concentrate for a full 60 minutes."
There's that stopwatch again.
Fred Baxter, a valuable role-playing tight end for the near-great Jets teams of the late Nineties, stressed the work that had to be done this past week and the plan that will remain on the table for every week the Jets remain alive in the 2011 season.
Baxter: Come Together and Show Your Heart
"When I was here with Coach Parcells, we had a great push in 1997 and came up short," Baxter reflected. "Then in '98 we had a great year and Bill instilled a great game plan and every individual bought into the game plan. They knew their responsibility and they just went out and executed.
"It's a very exciting time of the year. As a team, we basically know the direction and the mission and the coach's plan of getting us to our goals, and now we just have to come together as a unit to accomplish those goals. Offense, defense and special teams, we have to be one heartbeat and complement each other and fulfill the game plan."
The plan today will entail Sanchez and his offense having an answer for the Chiefs' defense. Their run D is 25th-ranked, their passing D triggered by OLB Tamba Hali and CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr is 12th, so it doesn't take a brain scientist or a rocket surgeon to figure out the Jets would like to establish their run game with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson and work in the passing game to good effect once again. Move the chains and score some points in the first quarter, as they finally did at Washington and keep the TDs rolling in the red zone — the Jets are No. 1 in the NFL in that category.
Flip it over and the challenge for the defense is to turn the KC offense into a one-dimensional unit by shutting down the running game that contains well-respected former Jet Thomas Jones in the three-headed mix. By doing that they can then tee off on first-year man Tyler Palko (Kyle Orton is doubtful with his reported dislocated right index finger) and try to keep him struggling. The Chiefs' snakebitten offense is 30th in passing and in his last three-plus games at the controls, Palko has generated just one TD drive, and that was on a Hail Mary completion to Dexter McCluster at the end of last week's first half at Chicago.
Harper: For the Returners, No Más Muffs
And what do the Jets' specialists need to do? After four consecutive games losing a fumbled kickoff or punt return, Bruce Harper, the Green & White's popular all-purpose man in the late Seventies and early Eighties, doesn't mince words.
"No. 1, they have to catch the doggone football," Harper said. "Just call a fair catch. I can't believe it. You've got to at least catch the ball. That's why you're back there, first, to catch the ball. If you can get some extra yardage, that's good. You'll be all right."
Buttle spoke again about the defense but his words can apply to those beating hearts on the offense and the teams, too.
"You've got to start making plays," he said. "That's what the defense used to do before. It's not that they made plays all the time. They made them when they needed them. They haven't done that, outside of the last game where they forced a turnover against the Redskins. And they didn't ever give up the last drive for a touchdown, and they've done that. Those are things that you look at the Jets defense and say they've got to be better than that."
These gentlemen have been there before, won a few ballgames and got to a few title games themselves. A sampling of what they want to see for their beloved green team against the red team today: big plays, unity of purpose, killer instinct, just catch the doggone ball.
Those are some of the traits the Jets and all their fans want to cheer about today. Those are some of the qualities that will enable the Jets to live another day and another week in this most crucial quarter of the season.