It's a short week. Bodies are bruised and legs are tired. In the last three weeks, the Jets have played 14 quarters of football instead of their normally allotted 12 and have only one day of practice before they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Thanksgiving night.
Despite all of that, the Jets' physical run defense is prepared to take on a familiar foe, running back Cedric Benson.
"He's a dangerous runner," tackle Sione Pouha said. "We saw last year he came out and did a number on us. So I mean he definitely has vision, he has speed, he has power. He's definitely a weapon."
In last year's AFC Wild Card Game, Benson carved up the Jets run defense to the tune of 169 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He is the last opposing back to gain 100 yards in a game against the Green & White.
The Jets boast the NFL's fifth-ranked defense in rushing yards per game and the third defense in the league in rushing yards per carry. They showed that Sunday by holding the Texans' Arian Foster, who had 920 rushing yards coming into the game, to 84 yards on 22 carries.
"Foster was the leading rusher in the NFL," linebacker Bryan Thomas said. "I'm not sure what his total numbers were at the end of the game, but we pride ourselves on being a great run-stop defense. Now going up against Benson this week, we just have to gang-tackle, all swarm to the ball, have 11 guys on the ball and all be on the same page and it'll all work out."
The team that earlier this year held the Ravens' Ray Rice to 43 yards, the Dolphins backs to 84 total and the Vikings' Adrian Peterson to 88 yards will hope to keep that trend alive. LB Calvin Pace was asked why he thought Benson was able to burst for the third-highest rushing output of his career back in January.
"He's a tough, physical runner," Pace said. "It's the type of game where you need to get a lot of guys to the ball because he breaks a lot of tackles. It's going to be a tough game. We're kind of familiar with these guys, playing them twice last year, and he has some ability, he broke a lot of tackles last year. So it's just getting people to the ball. We just have to hit him, hit him early and affect him and make them get away from that."
Foster, a similar running back to Benson, was held to those 84 yards but also scored two touchdowns and racked up 59 yards through the air. When the game was on the line, however, the Jets defense held strong.
The Texans had the ball with less than two minutes left in the Green & White's red zone. A first down would have sealed the game, but the Jets' front seven held strong, forcing Houston to kick a field goal to make the score 27-23. Forty-five seconds later, the Jets were in the end zone and celebrating their 30-27 victory thanks to wide receiver Santonio Holmes, quarterback Mark Sanchez and a stout run defense that held when it desperately needed to.
"Without question we had to hold them or we had no chance at all, so it was important," Pace said. "I'm not going to say it was redemption for that crazy span that we had. Situationally you'd like to get nothing, but three points was important."
That crazy stretch that Pace mentioned was one in which the Jets surrendered a 23-7 fourth-quarter lead, allowing quarterback Matt Schaub to engineer three scoring drives in a 10-minute span. End Shaun Ellis seemed confident that mistakes that were made during the defensive lapse in the fourth quarter will be fixed soon and that the only thing these 8-2 Jets can do is be mentally prepared for yet another battle.
"Every game is a fight," Ellis said. "So I'm pretty sure they're going to come out trying to run the ball and we have to stop it."