NFL: Greene’s big run goes a long ways
By Tara Sullivan
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
SAN DIEGO — The New York Jets continue to insist Thomas Jones is their primary running back.
Numbers say otherwise.
For the second straight week, rookie Shonn Greene was the Jets’ leading rusher, finishing with 128 yards on 23 carries as the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game with a 17-14 win over the Chargers. No carry was bigger than Greene’s 53-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, a score that sealed the Jets’ win and stamped him as not only a star of the future but a dangerous player right now.
A rushing attack that came into the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL started out slowly, but as it usually does, wore down the opposing team. Greene’s run was the ultimate proof, when he barreled through the middle of the line, followed the blocks as he slanted to his left, and sprinted toward the left corner of the end zone, crushing Chargers’ safety Eric Weddle on the way.
“It was a great executed block, and once I got to the second level, all I had to do was make the safety miss,” Greene said. “It was all green grass from there. ... I can’t even describe how it feels when you see green grass and the end zone. It feels like you’re in a dream.”
For a kid who went through a nightmare season in college, he’s savoring every moment. From a football-less year when he failed out of Iowa and worked at a warehouse to pay his tuition at a community college to the AFC title game for a hometown team, he’s been on quite a ride.
“It’s just wonderful,” he said. “Being so close to home, having my family see me play. It’s a blessing. It’s a total surprise, but you never know what can happen.”
Greene didn’t figure too much in the Jets’ early-season game plans, as he sat on the depth chart behind Jones and do-everything RB Leon Washington. But after Washington broke his leg during a game in Oakland and was put on injured reserve, Greene moved up in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s playbook.
As each week passes now, the rookie only gains importance. In the Jets’ last four games — the regular-season games against the Colts and Bengals followed by playoff wins over the Bengals and Chargers — Greene has totaled 420 yards on 73 carries. With fresh legs and deceptively quick feet, he has emerged as perhaps their best offensive player.
“He’s come along at the right time,” center Nick Mangold said. “As an offensive line, we know we have two of the best backs in the league. They put us in position to win.”
The Jets outrushed the Chargers, 169-61, with Jones adding 41 yards on 14 carries, including a huge fourth-and-1 conversion in the final minute.
“(Greene) is a big rascal right there,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “Once he starts getting to that second level, it’s a long day. We kind of rode the hot hand and he just kept pounding it in there until he was able to bust a long one.”
Right over an overmatched Weddle.
“I saw him trying to go low and I just dropped my shoulder and held onto the ball,” Greene said.
“I’m not Superman or anything. I feel it.”