If the Jets are going to make the playoffs and then follow with a postseason run, they'll need Brett Favre and Kris Jenkins to excel for the rest of December and beyond. And after 14 battles, both Pro Bowlers are not exempt from the tolls of a grueling season.
The 39-year-old quarterback, who's attempted 9,209 passes in 18 pro seasons, was asked today if his body felt the way it normally does.
"I don't know what normal feels like," Favre said. "I can't complain, considering this is 200-whatever games. I feel like I'm closing in on 40 and I've been sacked or hit however many times. But that's not to say that at the start of training camp I felt like a million dollars."
Favre, a 6'2", 222-pounder blessed with country-boy strength, has been sacked 465 times in his career and has been easily jostled well over a thousand more. Nobody's indestructible, but his 289 consecutive starts (including the postseason) represent one of the most impressive durability feats in the history of sports.
Last Sunday the Jets were able to beat the Bills despite an average performance from No. 4. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 207 yards with one TD and two INTs. After the game, he nobly stood at the podium and said he underthrew Jerricho Cotchery on a Terrence McGee pick early in the second half. It was a long ball that fell well short of the intended target.
"I think we as players should always take a lot of the blame, never point fingers or anything like that. That's the way I am," he explained Wednesday. "I assumed on that play, without watching the film, that I underthrew him badly.
"In hindsight, it was underthrown. I either stepped on Alan [Faneca] or he stepped on me. He was on the left side and his guy actually was blocked. I was looking to the right, so I was not able to finish the throw. I felt like I got bumped on the play."
Jenkins gets bumped around quite a bit. Opponents are aware of the backfield havoc he can create and are game-planning to neutralize the massive 6'4", 349-pounder. That means a lot of double- and triple-teams for the Jets' nose and a lot of physical punishment.
"I wish I could be Superman for everybody and I wish I could be 100 percent perfect every time I go out there, but honestly I'm learning a new position and I'm just trying to make sure I do the best that I can," Jenkins said Wednesday. "Sometimes everything is good and I can go out and do my thing. Sometimes things change."
The Jets, who still have the NFL's fifth-best rush defense, have been attacked in different ways recently. Buffalo worked the perimeter successfully and effectively countered sub packages as it rolled up 189 yards on the ground. A couple of weeks before that, the Broncos used their famous zone blocking to get rookie Peyton Hillis a career-high 129 yards. The 49ers rushed for only 100 yards in a win over the Green & White, but Frank Gore churned out 52 yards in the opening half.
"I know we're playing other teams that are very good, coaches are getting paid and players are getting paid," Jenkins said. "Now that they're seeing some of the things that go on, they game-plan a little different. These are things I'm confident that I'll get on top of, but it's a learning experience."
Jenkins, a known knockout puncher, has registered 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks this season despite all the attention. But now he's going to have to add a counterpunch to his arsenal.
"I was prepared for this when I came in. I knew there would be some adversity in my path and I have to regroup and bounce back," he said. "I think I'm doing that. I think I had a little bit of a rough spell personally against San Fran and against Buffalo, but I think my body's responding well now. I feel good and I think I'll be fine as the season progresses."
Favre feels fine, too. The gunslinger still believes in that magical right arm and one forced underthrow won't change anything.
"There are a lot of throws I can make that other guys can't make. And that's one of them I can make," Favre said. "There's no doubt about it."