Jets Have To Find A Way To Stop Ground Attack

As the clock ran down on the 23-3 playoff-clinching victory over Oakland, the Jets' defense showed attention to detail and a coordinated effort, as safety Kerry Rhodes and linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton combined to douse rookie coach Eric Mangini with a bucket.

Those same attributes worked on the field just as well as they did on the sidelines, when nose tackle Dewayne Robertson shoved Oakland center Jake Grove back into Aaron Brooks' face, and Shaun Ellis cleaned up by stopping the Oakland quarterback short of the first down on a fourth-and-1 sneak from the Jets' 45 in the third quarter.

From start to finish Sunday, the Jets' defense made its presence felt with its best effort of the season, so at least they can take some momentum into their first-round playoff game at New England on Sunday.

OK, so it wasn't exactly an offensive juggernaut they were facing, as Oakland's typically meager attack looked even worse without the inactive Randy Moss (ankle). But Oakland's three points was lower than its average of 11.0 points through the first 15 games, as was its total yardage (209). The Raiders came in averaging 233.1 yards. The three points and 209 yards were season-lows for a Jet opponent.

Rhodes, who picked up his fifth sack of the season in that game, said the Jets' bye week before their last meeting against New England on Nov. 12 was a big help to the defense.

"We just took it upon ourselves to improve and get better and we did that," Rhodes said. "We were able to break everything down, see who was messing up and see who was in the wrong places. Everything was magnified. We had time to go over it."

And time to correct it.

"At first we were having trouble stopping the run," Bryan Thomas admitted, "but as the season went along we got better and better and better at it. We still need to get better at stopping the run, don't get me wrong. But we've been doing a much better job at it."

The Jets will have to stop the two-headed rushing attack of Corey Dillon (812 yards) and Laurence Maroney (745), both of whom have more yards rushing than any Jets' back. Maroney (73) and Dillon totaled 140 yards in the regular-season finale at Tennessee, and each averaged 5.6 yards a carry.

Even Oakland's weak offense ran the ball somewhat successfully against the Jets, as Justin Fargas had 79 yards on 17 carries.

"It's good to see what hard work gets you," said defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen about the playoff berth. But he added that as a defense, "We can still get a lot better, and that's our focus."

Because they all know their next opponent has a much better offense than the one they just faced.


--QB Chad Pennington went 22-for-30 for 157 yards passing and one touchdown with no interceptions against Oakland. The touchdown was a 1-yarder to Chris Baker in the first quarter. Pennington, who had 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, finished 12th in the NFL in passer rating with an 82.6 mark. His 313 completions were second-best in team history for a single season.
--RB Leon Washington had 53 yards on 15 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. His 650 yards for the regular season was the fourth-best by a rookie Jet. Washington averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
--RB Cedric Houston started six days after being inactive at Miami because of a strained right calf. He had 44 yards on 16 carries and finished with 374 yards at 3.3 yards a carry.
--TE Chris Baker had two receptions for 19 yards and one touchdown. He finished with 31 catches, a career high.
--WR Laveranues Coles had two receptions for 24 yards. Coles finished sixth in the NFL in receptions with a career-high 91 for 1,098 yards and six touchdowns.
--WR Jerricho Cotchery had seven receptions for 53 yards. He averaged 5.9 catches over his last 10 games and finished tied for 16th in the league with 82 receptions after totaling 25 in his first two seasons.
--SS Kerry Rhodes recorded one sack, his fifth of the season. He also had four interceptions in 2006.
--LB Jonathan Vilma had five tackles and led the team, unofficially, with 116 stops.
--LB/DE Bryan Thomas had three tackles, but no sacks Sunday. Still, he finished with a team-high 8.5 sacks after having only 6.5 in his first four seasons.
--KR/CB Justin Miller finished the season as the NFL's kickoff return leader with a 28.3-yard average, ahead of the 28.0 posted by New England's Laurence Maroney. Miller had two returns for touchdowns.

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