Greene's freshness energizing Jets

Jets rookie running back Shonn Greene emerged as a home-run threat during the playoffs. Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Talk to the New York Jets about their postseason rushing success and they will make it a point to mention it's a tandem backfield effort between veteran Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene.

Make no mistake. Greene has carried the Jets' offense. In fact, the rookie who recorded 108 attempts in the regular season has been the league's offensive playoff MVP.

Greene was an afterthought for most of 2009, but stopping him Sunday will be critical to the Indianapolis Colts' chances of winning the AFC Championship Game in Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Shonn Greene is maybe one of the most powerful runners that we’ve seen," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "He’s a big, downhill back that can really do a tremendous job of carrying the load an entire game and gets stronger as the game goes on."

Greene leads the NFL with 263 rushing yards in the playoffs, already ranking him third among all Jets backs in career postseason yardage. He has two long touchdown runs of 39 and 53 yards.

"I can't even describe how it feels when you see green grass and the end zone," Greene said after his 53-yard touchdown run proved to be the deciding points in Sunday's road victory over the San Diego Chargers. "It feels like you're in a dream."

The Jets feel the same way when they watch Greene run.

The stat-driven site ProFootballFocus.com says 169 of Greene's yards, a marvelous average of 3.8 yards per carry, have come after contact. Only two backs this postseason, Ray Rice of Baltimore and Felix Jones of Dallas, have rushed for more yards than Greene has after contact.

"He's a tough runner, man," Jets right tackle Damien Woody said. "He doesn't go down on first contact. He runs through people. He runs through arm tackles. He's just a tough guy to bring down. He just physically wears down defenses."

Greene's emergence came at the perfect time.

Jones mostly has been ineffective. Throughout the regular season, he defied the axiom that running backs over 30 are destined to fall apart. Jones finished third in the NFL with 1,402 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.

The past two weeks, however, Jones has looked his age. He has been slowed by a left knee injury and isn't hitting holes as explosively as before.

The Jets handed off to Jones for a point-blank touchdown run in the first-round victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has averaged 2.6 yards on 29 carries in both playoff games. He rushed 27 times in a game twice during the regular season.

Greene, meanwhile, has been electric. He rushed for 135 yards against the Bengals and 128 yards against the Chargers. He scored a touchdown in each game, sprinting 39 yards and 53 yards to the end zone.

"Greene is much fresher than Jones and really everyone else on the field in the playoffs right now," Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson said. "The Jets used him very sparingly and, in turn, he has fresh, powerful legs, and it is really showing."

Williamson admitted he was skeptical of Greene, who left Iowa after winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back his junior year.

Some viewed Greene as lacking the speed to be a star NFL back, but the rookie's roughneck style has compensated and has made the Jets' front office look brilliant for trading up to take him with the first pick of the third round.

"He has a great burst and runs with vigor and violence," Williamson said. "He is very decisive for a rookie runner and isn't overwhelmed by the speed of the NFL game. He hits a hole with aggression and is very quick to get downhill with little wasted movement. He has the ideal, thick body type for his style of running and packs a lot of power on contact."

Greene also seems to have gotten past the fumble trouble that caused the Jets' coaching staff to lose confidence in him. In a span of six games in November and December, he committed three giveaways.

"This guy's young," Woody said, "but we knew he was a talented running back. He had some fumbling problems in the regular season. He had to earn that trust back from the coaching staff, but once he figured it out and did that, he's really taken off."