The 11-5 Jets closed out their 2010 regular season with a 38-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills at New Meadowlands Stadium.
The game had a preseason feel to it, with so many star players inactive and many others barely seeing the field at all, as the second-string Jets were too much for the woeful 4-12 Bills.
Mark Sanchez played one series and did not attempt a pass, handing off nine times to his former college teammate, rookie running back Joe McKnight, the fourth-rounder out of USC who had his coming out party against the league’s worst run defense.
McKnight shined in his first career start, accounting for 198 all-purpose yards, including 158 rushing yards on only 32 carries (4.9 ypc) as the Jets rushed for 278 yards as a team without lead backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene.
Check out game highlights below, and some of my thoughts after the break.
First of all, I was pleasantly surprised by how dominant the second and third-string Jets players did against a Buffalo Bills team that has been much more competitive than their record would indicate most of the season.
Joe McKnight showed that, given the opportunity, he can make plays on offense both running the ball and out of the back field. He ran with a lot more power than I think most people would have expected, often breaking tackles and moving the pile with explosiveness.
It would not be surprised too see some sort of packages for the 22-year-old McKnight in the postseason, perhaps in third down situations, and I would have to think that he and Shonn Greene will be big pieces of the Jets running game for years to come.
I don’t want to overreact to a “meaningless” game, but if there’s one thing McKnight has proved, it’s that he is absolutely capable of playing at this level and that he’s only going to get better as his NFL career goes on.
At the very least, he silenced the fans that said that McKnight, not Danny Woodhead deserved to be cut early in the season. He’s young, he’s willing to learn, and he’s tremendously talented. No doubt he would excel in the Patriots offense like the ex-Jet Woodhead given the opportunity.
Another guy who came up big for the Jets this week was defensive back Marquice Cole. The 27-year-old special teamer out of Northwestern has gotten more opportunities on defense the last few weeks, and he lead the team with 6 tackles yesterday and recorded his first two career interceptions, returning one 35 yards for a touchdown.
With the injuries to Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo, Cole filled in at safety in previous weeks, including the game-winning pass breakup against Pittsburgh that all but clinched the Jets their playoff berth. On Sunday, he started at cornerback alongside rookie first-rounder Kyle Wilson, and he responded with a big game against a good receiver in Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson.
The defense was unbelievable without Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Shaun Ellis and company. With the likes of Josh Mauga, Marquice Cole, Marcus Dixon and Jamaal Westerman, the Jets held the Bills to 162 total yards, including only 37 rushing yards on 18 carries for an average of 2.1 ypc. They also forced 6 turnovers, including 4 interceptions.
Now, the focus turns to the Indianapolis Colts, who will host the Jets on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. No better way to begin your playoff run than going to the place where last season ended, against Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. The journey to the Super Bowl begins Saturday.