The best measure of just how punishing the Oakland Raiders running game was could be found late Sunday afternoon in the visitors locker room, where only a few stragglers and discarded balls of athletic tape remained.
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It was there, at the far end of the room, that the true toll of the Raiders’ muscle on the New York Jets could be seen — or, rather, heard.
Not only did the Raiders overrun the Jets, 34-24, they managed to do something even more extraordinary. They knocked the words’ right out of Bart Scott’s mouth.
The Jets’ loquacious linebacker, whose postgame playoff rant — Can’t wait! — was so popular he trademarked it, didn’t go all WWE. In fact, he was strangely succinct.
“We didn’t get it done and we paid the price,” Scott said calmly after being mostly helpless to stop Darren McFadden, who rushed for 171 yards on 19 carries, or the rest of the Raiders, who rushed for a total of 234 yards.
What will it take to fix?
“Practice,” Scott said.
It was a strange sight to see Scott so restrained, but it was an afternoon full of many surprises. Who would have figured it would be the Jets — not the Raiders — who suffered the most egregious mental meltdowns?
Many of them came at the hands of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was flagged for four penalties and then bungled a kickoff at the goal line, gifting the Raiders a fourth-quarter touchdown that changed the tenor of the game.
Yet what may have been the most staggering spectacle is how definitively the Raiders dominated the Jets physically — particularly the New York defense, which, in case you haven’t heard, takes its cues from its blustery coach, Rex Ryan.
“Our defense let us down,” said Ryan, who called his team’s seven defensive penalties ridiculous. “This thing stings, there’s no question. You have 439 yards in offense and you lose the game. Unbelievable.”
As for what happened to the run defense?
“I don’t know what rush defense you’re talking about,” Ryan said. “That 234 yards and 7.8 a carry — I’ve never had that happen, I don’t think, in my life. But it just happened.
Ryan was not alone. Scott said the last time he remembered being run on like this was against the New York Giants — when he played for Ryan in Baltimore. Jim Leonhard, the Jets’ hard-hitting safety, was sent flying by center Samson Satele on Denarius Moore’s scintillating 23-yard touchdown run on a reverse. Leonhard didn’t remember ever being hit that hard — though maybe he didn’t remember much of anything else.
“Embarassing,” Jets defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “It was humiliating for us to have something like that happen to us. It will sink deep. We pride ourselves in playing Jet defense, and we didn’t do any of that today.”
The disconcerting thing for New York is that it could be a pattern. The Jets were so mediocre in their season-opening win over Dallas — a victory they snatched at the finish — that Ryan did not award a game ball to the defense. And though they rebounded to throttle the Jaguars last week, it may have been notable only because it was the end of the Luke McCown era in Jacksonville.
Next up for the Jets are trips to Baltimore and New England.
“The season’s not over,” said Ryan, though there may be some in New York who will suggest otherwise. “We’ll get it fixed.”
That is the difference between these two franchises. The Jets have been to back-to-back AFC title games, so caution may be warranted. But the Raiders have been so woeful in recent years that it was hard not to notice the enthusiasm here.
The Raiders are 2-1, and while that may be a modest feat, it is the first time they have managed it since 2004. Sunday’s crowd of 61,546 was the largest crowd since their 2009 home opener, and at one point, rookie coach Hue Jackson waved his arms, encouraging them to get excited.
A better way to get fans out of their seats is simply feeding the ball to two of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers: McFadden, who raced 79 yards for one of his touchdowns, and the rookie Moore, who eluded Scott and Jamaal Westerman on the reverse and dove into the end zone to put the Raiders ahead for good.
“You know, Coach Hue always says that we are building a bully,” McFadden said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, and that is what we want to go out there and try to do. We were able to do that today.”
Moore’s run was at the heart of the game-turning stretch late in the third quarter. With the score tied at 17, Ryan gambled on fourth-and-2 at the Oakland 37. But Sanchez’s pass to a slanting Plaxico Burress was late and fell incomplete.
Two plays later, McFadden was set to launch a halfback pass back to Campbell, but the Jets had it perfectly played. Well, almost perfectly. With Campbell blanketed, McFadden simply took off and ran with it, gaining 27 yards. On the next play, Moore weaved his way through the Jets on the way to his 23-yard score.
Cromartie then booted the ensuing kickoff, the Raiders recovered and two plays later, Michael Bush bulled in for a touchdown that put Oakland ahead, 31-17. Cromartie, who left the game in the fourth quarter with rib injury, was shielded by a Jets official from having to answer questions after the game.
If only Sanchez had similar protection. The Raiders sacked him four times, forced him into an ill-advised interception in the end zone, and left Sanchez with a welt under one eye — the result of which prompted the Jets to put a shield on his face mask in the second half.
It was quite a turn for Sanchez, who as a rookie here noshed on a hot dog on the sideline in the waning moments of a blowout. Not on Sunday, though. Sanchez had his lunch handed to him, and to the chagrin of the Jets, he was not alone.