The rushing attack the Jets have been trying to establish all season finally showed up in a big way on Sunday, but they don’t want to be one-game, run-game wonders.
"The challenge now is to step up and do it even better than we did last week and continue to run the ball as effectively as we did," Robert Saleh said.
The Jets rushed for a season-high 157 yards in their win over the Texans. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur took advantage of the fact that Houston had the NFL’s third-worst run defense. LaFleur had a smart game plan and mixed up his play calls, and the offensive line stepped up their play.
It took pressure off rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in his return after a four-game absence because of a knee injury. The Jets have said since spring workouts and training camp that they don’t want to put too much on Wilson’s plate. For the first time all season, the Jets had more rush attempts (34) than pass attempts (24). Wilson became a game manager.
"No matter how much the league tries to advertise the passing game, the run game, defense, special teams, that’s what travels," Saleh said. "And especially in this time of year, in cold weather, when people are hurting.
"Whenever you get the run game going, it takes pressure off of everybody. The defense gets to hang out on the sideline a little bit longer. The offense starts imposing their will. It just wears out those pass rushers. There’s a lot of good things that happen when you can run the football."
The Jets face the Eagles on Sunday at MetLife. Philadelphia owns the NFL’s best rushing offense and have shut down run games lately.
Over the last five games, the Eagles have allowed just one team to rush for more than 100 yards. But running the ball effectively will continue to be the Jets’ mission.
"It’s something that we rely on especially with a young quarterback," tight end Ryan Griffin said. "We got to count on the run game, especially later in the year. It’s not going to be something new because we placed some serious emphasis on it all year. We got the right guys in the room to make it happen. Looking forward to it."
Playing without leading rusher Michael Carter because of a high-ankle sprain, the Jets surpassed 100 yards on the ground for the second straight time. They ran for more than 80 yards just twice in the previous nine games.
The Jets used a three-headed backfield committee with Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and Austin Walter, who scored his first NFL touchdown one day after being elevated from the practice squad. Wilson also scored a rushing touchdown and receiver Elijah Moore got a first down on 4th-and-1, running for 7 yards on a jet sweep.
In the second half alone, the Jets ran for 107 yards — that’s more than they had in any single game since Week 2.
"I think that first drive when we came out [after halftime] we noticed we were running the ball pretty well," left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker said. "For the rest of the game, we were on the sideline like, ‘We might as well just keep on running the ball, bleed that clock.’
"We knew they couldn’t really stop us. The only thing that could stop us was if we stopped ourselves basically. We didn’t do that."
The Jets have to prove they can do it again.
The Jets placed wide receiver Keelan Cole on the reserve/COVID-19 list . . . They brought back tight end Dan Brown, signing him to the practice squad. The Jets traded Brown to Kansas City for right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff four weeks ago. Brown was recently released and returns with the Jets needing tight end insurance since Trevon Wesco (ankle) is out 2-4 weeks. The Jets waived quarterback James Morgan from the practice squad.