The Jets' running game got a burst from rookie back Shonn Greene in the AFC Wild Card Game at Cincinnati on Saturday when he rushed 21 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. Although the Chargers will be geared up to try and stop Greene, Thomas Jones and the Jets ground game this week, No. 23 doesn't feel any added pressure.
"Just as long as we control what we can do — take care of the football, run the football and have safe completions — I think we'll be fine," said Greene, whose 540 regular-season rushing yards were fourth-most by an NFL rookie and whose 5.0 yards per carry was the best among first-year backs. "Whether it's running the ball, blocking, whatever, I think I have some talent that can help this team. That's what I want to do."
This week the Jets' best defense might be to keep the Chargers' potent offense off the field by grinding time off the clock with their running game. The Green & White are in the top 10 in the league with an per-game average of 31:43 time of possession during the regular season.
"That's what we have to do," said fullback Tony Richardson. "We have a tremendous defense, but a team like San Diego, they're hot. They can put up a lot of points with playmakers across the field. The more we can keep our offense on the field and the less their offense is on the field, the more it helps us."
The Jets' running game has helped carry their offense all this season, giving Sanchez time to develop his pro game.
"We know what our identity is now," said tackle Damien Woody. "Mark understands that and he understands how important it is to take care of the football. I think that's why you see us kind of on a roll offensively now."
Although the Chargers defense was ranked 16th this season, they have some key playmakers for the Jets' offense to keep in mind, starting with their linebacker corps.
Sixth-year pro Shaun Phillips leads the team with seven sacks and seven forced fumbles, which unofficially led the NFL. The leading tackler on the Bolts' 3-4 defense is inside linebacker Stephen Cooper with 119.
Shawne Merriman, the fifth-year pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection, battled a sore foot throughout much of the second half of the season but was able to rest up during the Chargers' playoff bye week. He has 20 quarterback pressures to go along with his four sacks.
"They do a great job of flying around," said Greene. "The linebackers are the best position on their defense. Those guys are very active."
Up front, the offensive line will try to keep the Chargers' D-line on its heels. Similar to the Jets, who lost DT Kris Jenkins early this season, the Bolts lost their front-line anchor, 6'3", 348-pound Jamal Williams, with a torn triceps prior to their season opener.
Filling in for Williams have been Ian Scott (6'3", 313), Vaughn Martin (6'4", 320) and Antonio Garay (6'3", 303), briefly on the Jets' practice squad earlier this season. The three combined have 26 tackles and one sack all season, but this is the playoffs when everyone is supposed to take his game up another level.
"They're really athletic," said C Nick Mangold. "They've really been getting after the ball really well as of late. It's going to present a challenge for us to make sure we stay on our blocks and make sure we sustain. It should be a fun challenge switching up. They have run a little bit of different schemes in the past couple of weeks so it should be fun to get through this week and see where we're at."