And with the performance that running back Curtis Martin gave for the team today in a 6-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Herman Edwards and the front office most likely have no choice than to consider him as a key ingredient for the squad in 2004.
Martin went dashing through the snow with another storm hitting the metropolitan area for the second straight week as he surpassed former Jet John Riggins for the eleventh spot for all-time rushing yardage. But he was most proud today in breaking the 1,000 yard rushing barrier for the ninth consecutive season making him only the second player to run for that total in the first nine years of his career. The only other running back to accomplish that feat in the history of the NFL was Detroit's Barry Sanders who did so in all ten of the seasons that he played in the league. "It is something that I feel good about," Martin said. "I'm not big on statistics and individual goals, but this one is special to me. I'm only the second (player) in the world to do this."
Martin finished the day with 174 yards on the ground and also pulled in four receptions for 54 yards. The only thing he did not do was get in the end zone but the Jets' workhorse was undoubtedly a major contributor in a game where both teams' offenses were limited due to the weather conditions.
"I don't know if you could have done a better job with the weather like that," Steelers head coach Bill Cowher said. "Games like that are the games you dream about when you're a kid. It was a classic game, a game for the purists."
It was also a game where Doug Brien won the placekicking battle against Jeff Reed as he was successful on both of his field goals from 28 and 41 yards while Reed missed both of his tries from 43 and 20. It turned out to be the difference in the contest as the Steelers were able to move into Gang Green's territory on several occasions, but could not push the ball into the end zone.
"There are no excuses," said Reed. "I missed two field goals and we lost by six points. I know the guys won't put it on me, but I take the blame myself."
The Jets' defense bent but did not break in giving up a total of 231 yards and allowing the Steelers to invade their side of the field six different times. In fact, Pittsburgh was inside the Jets' 20 yard line twice and got as close to the three-yard line. But Reed missed his attempt on the first occasion and four incomplete passes from the Steelers' signal caller, Tommy Maddox, on New York's 17 the second time ended any realistic chances for them. Their record drops to 5-9 and they are completely out of the playoff hunt.
"We needed to be tested, just to see who's going to compete when everything's against us," Jets defensive tackle Josh Evans said. "Everybody could have given up, but it was nice to see everybody competing."
Quarterback Chad Pennington completed 15 of 25 passes for only 144 yards as he was clearly playing it safe with a slippery football. He fumbled twice—losing one of them—but protected the football well enough for the win. The Jets are now 4-4 in the games that he has started.
If the Denver Broncos defeat the Cleveland Browns today or the Miami Dolphins beat the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow night, the Jets will be eliminated from a playoff spot. They are home this Saturday night against the New England Patriots who clinched the AFC East last week and currently hold a 12-2 record. They disposed of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars by pounding them in a 27-13 victory today and are in the lead for home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC.
Jets ride Martin to victory
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