CINCINNATI - All this talk about the rookie quarterback, and it's the rookie running back who takes the game over.
Shonn Greene - an afterthought of a draft pick in the hours following the franchise-changing selection of Mark Sanchez last spring - ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, helping to lead the Jets to their 24-14 wild-card win over the Bengals. In fact, it was Greene's 39-yard scoring run that gave the Jets their first touchdown of the playoffs.
"We finished off the season the No. 1 rushing team in the league,'' Greene said, "and we kind of had that attitude coming into this game that we wanted to prove to everybody that we still are going to do that in the postseason."
His touchdown run was a perfect confluence of play-calling, timing and execution. On second-and-2 from the 39, the Bengals guessed that the Jets would be looking to convert the first down. Sanchez faked a handoff to fullback Tony Richardson to the right and the entire Bengals defense seemed to go in that direction. That's when Sanchez flipped the ball back the other way to Greene. A quick kick-out block by Dustin Keller on cornerback Leon Hall allowed Greene to cut inside and take off untouched for the end zone.
"I wasn't surprised," Greene said of going in with so little pursuit. "Those guys were loading up the box a lot, so once we could get to the second level, there was a lot of green out there that we could run on. It was no surprise to me. Once you break the first one, it's pretty much open."
The play actually was set up last week when the Jets played the Bengals in the regular-season finale. They ran a Richardson dive from the 2 in that contest, trying to score a touchdown. It didn't work . . . until six days later, with a bit of misdirection.
"They leaned on it," Richardson said, "and we were able to get it to the edge."
Keller said the block on the run ranked just as high for him as his TD reception later in the game that gave the Jets the lead. He also said that when a team can pull a fast one on a defense the way it did on Greene's score, the players come off the field snickering a little.
"We gave them a misdirection play and we thought they would bite on it," a satisfied Keller said. "They're loading up the box and ready for a power play, and to sneak one by them like that [is great]. I knew as long as I got a good block on him, it was going to be a big gain. I didn't anticipate a touchdown, but we'll take it."
The Jets also will take Greene running the way he ran Saturday, rookie or not. He was supposed to complement Thomas Jones, the team's leading rusher, but Jones finished with 34 yards on 15 carries. Instead, it's Greene who could be emerging as the go-to running back - and the go-to rookie - during this playoff push.
Said guard Brandon Moore, "Shonn's really turned it up."