The New York Jets were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the NFL during the 2013 season. They lost their starting QB from last year, Mark Sanchez, to a should injury and replaced him with rookie second-round pick Geno Smith. Leading rusher Shonn Greene, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year, signed with the Tennessee Titans. The Jets replaced Greene with Chris Ivory, who rushed for 591 yards rushing in 2011 and 2012 combined.
To everyone’s surprise, the Jets went into Sunday at 4-4 and in second place in the AFC East. They were heavy underdogs at home to the 6-1 New Orleans Saints, whose only loss came in New England on a last-second touchdown. The Saints came into the game ranked seventh in yards against and fourth in points per game against.
The Jets came into the game ranked 13th in rushing yards per game, but that was due to Smith being a dual threat at QB. Both Ivory and Bilal Powell have averaged less than four yards per carry, and have combined for only one rushing TD. These numbers added up to the Jets having to pass the ball to win this game.
However, with an early injury to Jeremy Kerley, Santonio Holmes being injured and Kellen Winslow being suspended, the receiving core was thin and they needed to play old-school Rex Ryan football to win.
Ryan runs a clock control, smash-mouth type of offense focusing on field position. He loves running the ball and chewing up the clock, which allows his defense to be fresh late in the game. He uses a lot of exotic blitz packages and the two things go hand in hand.
On Sunday, the Jets ran the ball 36 times for 198 yards and two TDs in a 26-20 win over the Saints. The 198 yards were the most the Jets have rushed for all season and the most the Saints have given up. This allowed Smith to play the game manager role for just the second time this year and focus on not turning the ball over.
With the win over the Saints, the Jets are not just in contention for a Wild Card spot, but are contenders for the AFC East title at 5-4. In a year that was supposed to be a big disappointment and perhaps the last for Ryan in New York, he has to be one of the early favorites for Coach of the Year honors and in line for a big contract next season.