LaDainian Tomlinson had been in the situation he found himself in at Chicago in Week 16 countless times before in his 10-year career: ball on the three-yard line, his team needing a touchdown to extend a lead.
The younger L.T. would have soared over a pile of defenders into the endzone. But now, Tomlinson, 31, can't leap like he once did. So instead he opts for a more straight-ahead approach, as he did when he ducked under and through the Bears' defense for a TD — the 144th rushing score of his career.
The running back is one of several key veterans in their first year with the Jets, joining OLB Jason Taylor, WR Santonio Holmes, PK Nick Folk, FS Brodney Pool and CB Antonio Cromartie. All were cast aside by their former teams for various reasons but came to New York for a singular purpose: to help a team that was leading at halftime of last season's AFC championship game advance to the next level.
Taylor, who played for the Dolphins for 12 seasons and recorded 124 career sacks with the Jets' AFC East rival, wasn't actively pursued by Miami in the offseason. The 36-year-old figured he would go somewhere that he'd be appreciated and welcomed.
"I was looking for work," Taylor said. "And Rex Ryan had the No. 1 defense in the NFL last year and they made it a point and priority to try and get me to sign up here in New York.
"Rex was very up front and blunt about what he expects, where he thinks this football team is, and they had lot of success last year without me defensively and as a team, so it was a situation where I was more than happy to be wanted and come up and play for a good football team."
His impact, along with the other new faces, has been a major reason why the Jets are making a return trip to the playoffs. Taylor has added more speed and physicality to an already-dangerous defense, recording four sacks and two forced fumbles, as well as essentially clinching a Week 15 win in Pittsburgh with a safety.
Holmes helped the team win back-to-back games earlier in the season with game-winning touchdowns.
Last year, the Jets knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs. So when San Diego's star running back and a starting cornerback were left out of the team's plans for 2010, both players figured they'd find success in New York.
"Looking at this team, I knew the blueprint was there — great coaching staff, good players," Tomlinson said upon learning the team had clinched a wild-card berth. "So I'm very glad I chose this team."
"This defense is not hard, we play a lot of man-to-man," Cromartie said of learning Ryan's defense. "So for me, the adjustment wasn't hard at all. My whole thing was just trying to come in and contribute the best way I can and try to help us get into the playoffs, and now we'll go from there."