INDIANAPOLIS — The New York Jets’ offense — particularly its rushing attack — had a record-breaking day last week against the Denver Broncos.
Let’s start with running back Isaiah Crowell, who ran wild for a franchise record 219 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown scamper.
And all those yards? Crowell only needed 15 carries to get them; his 14.6 yards-per-carry average: an NFL single-game record for a player with at least 15 rushing attempts.
Crowell led the way for a Jets rushing attack that would finish with 323 yards on the ground — the second-most in team history — as New York was able to snap a three-game losing streak with its 34-16 victory over Denver at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets are hoping for a repeat performance this Sunday, but standing in their way will be an Indianapolis Colts defense well aware of what it’s up against.
“I think their line operates well together. Their backs run really hard. I think their offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, coach those guys well in the run game,” Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “So, it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
With a rookie, Sam Darnold, at quarterback, the Jets (2-3) have really relied upon their rushing attack so far this season. Their 135 rushing yards per game rank sixth in the league, while their 4.9 yards-per-carry average ranks fifth.
Crowell, the former standout with the Cleveland Browns, has excelled in his first season in New York, running the ball 57 times for 390 yards (6.8 yards per carry) with five touchdowns so far.
Oh, and the other guy toting the rock for the Jets isn’t so bad, either. Bilal Powell has 59 carries for 264 yards — which is still a very respectable 4.5 yards-per-carry average — and had 99 yards last week against the Broncos.
The Jets also have their weapons in the passing game — Robby Anderson had touchdown receptions for 76 and 35 yards, respectively, last week — but the Colts want to set the tone up front in this one.
Simply put, it’s all about execution for Indianapolis.
“We’ve got to play good gap-sound defense and we have to hustle to the ball,” head coach Frank Reich said. “We talk about it all the time, we want to lead the league in hustle, but we also want to lead the league in being assignment sound. Playing good run defense means being in your gap and where you’re supposed to be, playing physical and then everybody pursuing to the ball running through the last the three steps.
“We’ve got to be physical,” Reich continued. “They’re going to get a couple runs. I mean, it’s the NFL and they’ve got good players as well. But I think that relentless pursuit is what we can use to contain them.”
That approach worked well for the Miami Dolphins, who held the Jets to just 19 combined carries for 42 yards — 2.2 yards per carry — in their 20-12 Week 2 victory. In that game, Crowell had 12 carries for 35 yards, and his longest carry of the day, 12 yards, was more than two yards less than his average yards-per-carry figure last week against the Broncos.
Sticking with the fundamentals will be key, but the return of the NFL's leading tackler could also help.
Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard — who has 54 stops already on the year — missed last week's game against the New England Patriots with an ankle injury, but is confident he'll be good to go on Sunday.
If he does return, he'll be leading an Indy defense that knows exactly what it's up against.
“The big thing for us is just execute,” Eberflus said. “Whatever the call is or whatever front we are in, it’s got to be us on the same page and us executing our technique. That’s how you play sound defense.”