After producing 123 rushing yards in the Jets' previous four games combined, Shonn Greene was bound for a breakout showing.
But could anyone have expected a career one?
Greene finished with a career-high 161 rushing yards and three touchdowns to tie his career high on 32 carries as the Jets ended their three-game homestand with a 35-9 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts.
"When you're down and the running game is not going as well as you want, it's easy to just give up on it and just be like, "whatever,' " Greene said. "But we keep working every week at practice. We keep just grinding and grinding and saying it's going to come along. And it did today."
Almost from the game's onset, you could sense the Jets' No. 1 back was going to be a key element of the offense. After his first three carries of the game combined for 9 yards, he saw a hole and burst up the middle for 21 yards during the Green & White's second offensive series. That large pickup was the most he's produced on a run this season and put the Jets into Indianapolis territory. Soon after they scored on a 5-yard Stephen Hill reception from Mark Sanchez.
"When Shonn carries it that well and has that kind of production, it's great for the entire team," head coach Rex Ryan said.
The next time the Jets offense hit the field, Greene carried four times. The drive ended with him in the end zone at the end of a 10-yard TD that put the home team in front, 14-3. Indianapolis responded on its next drive with a 50-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri. Then Greene began the Jets' next offensive possession with a 19-yard run. By halftime, No. 23 had rushed for 91 yards on 14 carries.
"The offensive line was doing a great job and we were getting press at the line of scrimmage and guys were just working hard," Greene said. "Everything clicked."
Greene would go onto score his two other TDs in the second half. The first came late in the third quarter on a 4-yard run when he spun off a defender, and the last was in the fourth quarter on a run up the middle from 2 yards out.
"He gets real low when he gets in the open field," wide receiver Chaz Schilens said of his teammate. "I wouldn't want to tackle that. When he lowers his shoulders, it's almost impossible to tackle. He's a great, great running back. He's got it all. So there's a reason he's the starting running back."
Greene credited his offensive line and also praised fullback Lex Hilliard and the Jets wide receivers for helping him put together such a special performance.
"I believe every week and every season that we can accomplish things like this," Greene said. "Offensively I think we can do it any week, against any team. It's just a matter of us executing, not stopping ourselves and working hard during the week in preparation."
The 5"11', 226-pounder hadn't had a 100-yard rushing game since Dec. 11 of last year when he rushed for 126 in the 37-10 victory against Kansas City.
But this afternoon wasn't the only time Greene scored three touchdowns in a game. He also finished with three during the Jets' 34-19 win at Washington in 2011, the week before the Chiefs game.
"It's great for Shonn," Sanchez said. "He's a heck of a player and he just keeps grinding, keeps playing hard, and that wasn't easy. A couple of our running backs went out, so Shonn's picking up the load and he's picking himself up off the ground and running it five more times in a row. That's not easy for a running back, but he kept on going."
With a trip to Foxboro, Mass., in store next weekend and now back at .500, the Jets couldn't have gotten Greene's historical day at a better moment.
"Shonn is a phenomenal runner and I think he does whatever is necessary to get the yards," tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "I think it really paid off today. We always knew he had the type of talent and today he was kind of able to display that."