He came up one yard short of 100 all-purpose yards on Saturday night, but LaDainian Tomlinson was all smiles after the game as he basked in the New York Jets' hard-fought 17-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The game seemed to move by in a blink of an eye, as the Jets ran the ball 38 times for 169 yards and chewed up over 33 minutes of the play clock. Tomlinson was fresh and light on his feet as he sprung for 82 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
"Anytime playing on turf for me, where I can really cut and get in and out of the hole and use my quickness, is an advantage for me," Tomlinson said. "So I think obviously the rest last week, not playing against Buffalo, that helped. So having two weeks really to rejuvenate the battery and get back ready for this run, we knew that this was going to be something that Shonn [Greene] and I were going to rotate and keep us fresh throughout the whole game and it worked today. Hopefully we can continue to be productive."
The fast track at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium allowed Tomlinson to cut his way to a 23-yard run on the Green & White's first offensive possession and helped him rack up first down after first down with either receptions or runs. His backfield mate, Greene, rushed for 70 yards on 19 carries and was part of the one-two punch that tried to wear down the Colts defense and keep Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning off the field.
"That was our plan," Greene said. "We had to keep him off the field and go out and pound them with me and LT and our offensive line. And I think we accomplished that."
The Jets put together two long drives to open the second half after entering the break with the score 7-0 in the Colts favor. The Jets deliberately put their stamp on the game with their first drive that went 10 plays and 63 yards over 5:12 and ended in Tomlinson's first touchdown.
After surrendering a field goal, Tomlinson then helped key an enormous 17-play, 87-yard, 9:54 second drive that may prove to be a defining moment and one that further establishes the Jets' offensive identity. Tomlinson believed that crucial drive that finished in the fourth quarter was huge in terms of setting the tone for the final minutes of action.
"In terms of a boxing match, it's body blows," Tomlinson said. "To really wear your opponent down in order to knock him out in later rounds. I think that's exactly what we did that drive, a bunch of body blows, and it allowed us to really wear them down in the fourth quarter so we could move the ball a little bit better and then score some points."
Tomlinson, the long-time San Diego Charger, had the opportunity to join the Minnesota Vikings this offseason before ultimately choosing to make the move to Florham Park, N.J., and join owner Woody Johnson's organization. The former NFL MVP stated that defenses win championships, and believes in head coach Rex Ryan's defensive approach. Towards the end of his career, Tomlinson has shown that he's most concerned about postseason success than anything else, eschewing a potential 1,000-yard season by sitting out in Week 17 in order to be ready for the playoffs.
"I think every opportunity is precious," Tomlinson said, "because for me as an older player, you never know when the opportunity is going to come around again. So you want to leave it all out on the field. You want to have no regrets at all, so for me the decision in the offseason to come here, I felt like this was the right decision."
Last season the Colts ended Ryan and crew's Super Bowl dreams by mounting a second-half comeback. This year, the tables were turned and Ryan got his elusive victory against Manning and company. Tomlinson was emotional because of his history against the Colts, and the fact that it was here in Indianapolis in 2007 where his injury woes began. Now he's back on track physically and was in the middle of the Jets team pregame huddle, getting the team's mind right for January football.
"It was 'There's no tomorrow'," Tomlinson said. "For us, we have to get it done together. No one believes in us but ourselves and for us, that's what it's all about. To do it together, we're going to need every man in this circle to make a play and I'm pretty sure we used every man in that circle tonight."
With the win, the Jets will head back to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round, and the mantra will need to be the same in order to come away with a victory and head back to the AFC Championship Game for a second straight season.