Every once in a while Sunday, Jets-Chiefs took on the feel of old-timey NFL trench warfare, minus the grass, dirt and ice, as the Jets' offensive line plowed straight ahead into the KC front, trying to open any crease or crevice for Josh McCown, in the role of Otto Graham or Bart Starr, to plunge into the chaos of arms, legs and bodies and come out on the other side.
"We really grinded it out," said C Wes Johnson. "We appreciate Coach [John] Morton putting faith in us to keep running it, keep pounding it. We didn't get any huge, explosive runs, but we kept working 'em and working 'em to where we had 93 plays. In the fourth quarter, I think all that pounding kind of took a toll on them, and we were still driving."
The 157 rushing yards were good, the 3.2 yards/carry low. But the 49 carries? That's the stuff of throwback games. And in the Jets' previous 25 games with 49-plus rushes, their record was 22-2-1. Correlation is not causation, yet the O-line's success especially in short-yardage situations had a lot to do with the latest win.
"That's a lunchpail group," McCown said. "I enjoy playing with those guys. For us to be able to get into the end zone because they were wanting it to be on their backs, wanting us to dial their number, that was fun to get down and get behind those guys and push the ball in the end zone with them."
The Jets Returned to the Practice Field on Wednesday Afternoon to Kick Off Broncos Week
McCown wasn't the Jets' only rusher, of course, but a big part of his AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors were his three one-yard keepers, one on fourth down, the other two on third-and-goal for the scores. That's five rushing TDs for the 38-year-old "kid," two off the franchise QB mark of seven set by Al Dorow in the Titans' first season in 1960. And McCown's four 1-yard TDs this season breaks the franchise QBs mark.
"We talk to him all the time," LT Kelvin Beachum said of his QB. "If there's something we like or don't like, he'll toss it out or put it in for us. If there's something we need another look at, he'll make sure the coaches put it in for us. He understands us and understands we're going to protect him."
"We love that he likes to sneak it," Johnson said. "He kind of turns the ignition to our offense. He's our energy guy. We all look to him and he sets the tone for everybody."
But the OL has to pave the way. The Jets' linemen know they've had ups and downs this season but at their best, against the Jaguars, the Bills at home and vs. the Chiefs, when they combined their run-blocking with no sacks allowed and , they can feel good about their progress.
The Chiefs game, Beachum said, "was a chance for us to showcase our style." And that style will be tested at Denver this weekend. Even though the Broncos are in free-fall, their Von Miller-led defense remains a formidable challenge. And it's one the Jets' linemen welcome.
"We're in the last quarter of the year and we want to finish strong. We've had games where we played great, games where we didn't play that great. We believe we're one of the best lines in the league. We know we've got to go out and show it every week."
Business As UsualSince the beginning of the season, Todd Bowles has reiterated that McCown is the Jets' quarterback. Days away from McCown's 13th consecutive start, Bowles was asked if the 38-year-old will be his starter for the rest of the season.
"I've been saying that," said the third-year head coach. "That's what I've been saying."
McCown was namedAFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Jets' 38-31 win over Kansas City. It was McCown's third Offensive POW Award overall after reaching the 300-yard passing mark for a third time in 2017 and adding two rush touchdowns for the third time in his career. After crediting his teammates for their contributions, he looked ahead to Sunday's matchup with the Broncos in Denver.
"They have done a good job of building that defense, building the depth of that defense. It's a solid group," he said of the NFL's fifth-ranked unit. "Obviously, those corners are special players. Von Miller is a special player, (Brandon) Marshall is a good linebacker. The safeties are good players, so we know we have our hands full. It's going to be a tough challenge for us, especially going on the road. But we'll put a good week of preparation in and we'll be ready to go."