The last time that the New York Jets found playoff glory, it was an elite offensive line paving the way.
Once upon a time, the New York Jets had actually had an offensive line that gave its play-makers some room to operate.
Not coincidentally, the last time that statement rang true is also the last time that the Jets were a championship contender.
The Jets had a beastly offensive line from 2009-10, a span in which they won four playoff games. In 2009, from left-to-right: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, Damien Woody. Faneca was replaced with rookie Matt Slauson in 2010, and the unit hardly skipped a beat.
Those men anchored one of the league’s absolute best offensive fronts for two years running. Pro Football Focus graded the Jets as the NFL’s most effective pass-protecting offense in each season, also placing sixth (2009) and ninth (2010) in run blocking. In 2009, Mark Sanchez took the third-lowest pressure rate in football (23.4%), and in 2010, the sixth-lowest (26.9%).
Let’s look back at three memorable moments from the Jets’ most recent playoff win – the 2010 Divisional victory at New England – in which the offensive line played a central role in making the play happen.
Ferguson’s recovery – Mark Sanchez 37-yard pass to Braylon Edwards
Q2, 11:38, , NE 3 – NYJ 0, 3RD & 6 AT NE 45
This play was a massive turning point.
The Jets had gotten off to a cold start offensively. They punted on two of their first three drives, and on the other, they were set up at New England’s 12-yard line (following a 58-yard David Harris interception) and gained zero yards before Nick Folk missed a 30-yard field goal.
Sanchez threw for only 26 yards over his first eight passes (3.3 per attempt).
On a third-and-medium slightly beyond midfield, the Jets offense finally got its wheels turning. Sanchez was given plenty of time against a three-man rush, rolled to his left, and fired a dart downfield to Edwards, who hauled it in against his helmet for a 37-yard gain.
A clutch recovery by Ferguson (LT) allowed Sanchez’s bomb to happen. Ferguson allows some penetration to Tully Banta-Cain (#95), but he anchors down and thrusts Banta-Cain towards the inside and to the ground, allowing Sanchez to scramble outside uncontested.
Sanchez deserves a lot of credit there for avoiding what could have been a sack, and that certainly was not the cleanest rep from Ferguson for allowing a bit of pressure in the first place.
However, what often separates the good linemen from the bad is the ability to recover. Nobody can win every battle, but there is always a chance for a lineman to make up for his initial defeat by staying with the play and giving his teammate (either the QB or RB) an opportunity to keep things going. Ferguson does that tremendously here, paving the way for a crucial completion by Sanchez.
LaDainian Tomlinson would score on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez two plays later.
Mangold second level – LaDainian Tomlinson 16-yard run
Q2, 1:06, , NE 3 – NYJ 7, 1ST & 10 AT NE 37
The Jets got the ball in New England territory with under 70 seconds left in the half thanks to a botched fake punt attempt by Patrick Chung. Immediately, the offensive line got to work.