SAN DIEGO - Early in the season, when Jets rookie running back Shonn Greene was either watching the games in street clothes on the inactive list or getting only a handful of carries to spell starter Thomas Jones, linebacker Bart Scott pulled him aside in the locker room.
Greene was disappointed about not playing a key role, but Scott told him his time would come.
"I said, 'Youngster, embrace it,' " Scott said. " 'You're going to be fresh. When all of us are breaking down, you're gonna be feeling great.' "
That time has come.
Greene, who had only 540 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the regular season, has starred in each of the Jets' two postseason wins.
Greene rushed for 128 yards on 23 carries yesterday, including a 53-yard touchdown run with 7:17 remaining that proved to be the game-winner in the Jets' 17-14 upset of the Chargers.
A week earlier, he rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries and scored on a 39-yard run in a 24-14 win over the Bengals.
"It's a great feeling," Greene said after yesterday's game. "Our team has been through so much this season. We stuck together when nobody believed in us and we got the job done."
They got it done in large measure because of Greene, a powerfully built runner who starred at Iowa before joining the Jets this season as a third-round pick. Now he seems to have overtaken veteran Thomas Jones as the Jets' feature back.
"It's very cool," Greene said of the Jets' postseason success. "It's very exciting. We all believe in each other and we all work hard."
This one wasn't easy, though. Greene was held to 35 yards on nine carries in the first half as the Chargers allowed only four first downs.
But the Jets kept at it and eventually wore down the Chargers' defense. And in the fourth quarter, Greene hit the big one. On first-and-10 from the Jets' 47, he burst up the middle and raced in for the score as the Jets took a 17-7 lead.
"It was a slant play, and the line blocked it up great," he said. "Once I got to the secondary, I had one man to beat and just went into the end zone.
"It's a great feeling. We needed that, and it picked our defense up. Once you break a play like that and see the end zone, it's a wonderful feeling."