With Sunday's 28-24 victory over the visiting Bills, the Jets took a successful first step in their renewed march to the postseason. Today much of the focus was on the O-Line, which turned in perhaps its best effort of the season.
"That looked like the New York Jets offensive line," said head coach Rex Ryan. "I was really impressed with the way we protected the quarterback and knocked some guys off the ball."
The line prevented Buffalo from recording a single sack, the first such game this season for the Jets. The Bills tallied one quarterback hit, applying almost no pressure inside the passing pocket. It was a bounce-back performance for the line, which struggled in Week 11 against the Broncos.
"It was pretty good, but there's still plenty to get cleaned up," said C Nick Mangold. "We'll get back to work. We have another big task ahead of us."
In addition to protecting the pocket for QB Mark Sanchez, the O-Line opened up significant running lanes for the Jets' tailbacks. As a team, the Green & White averaged 6.0 yards per tote, the highest average of the season. The Jets ran for 138 yards, eclipsing the 100-yard barrier for the fifth time in the last six games.
It isn't often the Jets rush for as many yards per carry and allow zero sacks in a single game. In fact, it is only the 10th time in franchise history and the second since 2001 that they have reached those benchmarks. The last was in 2008 at home against the same Buffalo Bills.
Even WR Santonio Holmes benefitted from the improved play of the line, recording two end-around rushes for a career-high 28 yards. Holmes, RB Shonn Greene and the rest of the Jets rushers continued to enjoy blocking even after reaching the second level of the defense. Ryan made a point to highlight WR Patrick Turner for his impressive downfield blocking.
"I thought he did a tremendous job," said Ryan. "His blocking has really picked up. He's a huge guy, about the size of a tight end. On that little dive pitch to Shonn early on, he drove a guy about 20 yards into the Gatorade. That blocking performance by him was probably the best we've had all year by a receiver."
In the two games the Jets and Bills have played this year, the offensive line has been particularly stout. The Bills finished the season series against the Jets with just one sack and three quarterback hits.
While Buffalo's defense is predicated more on forcing turnovers than rushing the passer, the Jets' next opponent has been feasting on quarterbacks in 2011. The Washington Redskins have 33 sacks under their belt thus far, tied for the lead in the NFC with the Minnesota Vikings and tied for third in the NFL before tonight's Giants-Saints game.
The Skins have four players with at least five sacks, more than any other team in the league. The pressure comes from all over the field, and their young corps of strong, athletic end rushers has become a fearsome group.
The solid showing by the Jets offensive line should give the group a ton of confidence heading into FedEx Field.
"It's good to have a win, good to get started that way," said Mangold. "The next one is going to be a tough one and we have to prepare properly."
Ryan was clearly proud of the performance of the O-Line, continually praising their effort during his daily conference. Mangold agreed the line played well but stressed the need to get even better as the season rolls on.
"We always have to clean up the mistakes," said Mangold. "We did some good things, and we did some things that are correctable. Our challenge every week is to clean up the things that we did poorly."