The falcons entered Sunday's game against the Jets with the NFL's second-best defense against the run. Having not allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in 14 consecutive games, they had set their sights on cooling off Curtis Martin. The shifty Martin had run for more than 100 yards in each of his previous three games, thanks mostly to a play that few teams employ as often or as effectively as the Jets. "They use a toss sweep off of a bunch formation," Falcons defensive coordinator Rich Brooks said last Thursday. "Other teams run it once or twice in a game. The Jets will do it up to 15 times."
In New York's toss sweep, wideouts Wayne Chrebet and Keyshawn Johnson line up on the strong side, with Chrebet wide and Johnson in the slot about two yards outside of the tight end. As Martin gathers a short pitch, Chrebet moves inside and blocks Johnson's man, and Johnson cracks down on the player across from the tight end, freeing up that blocker or the tackle to pull and obliterate a defensive back.
"Some defenses put a linebacker out there, but then the Jets can kill you with the pass," Brooks said. "You hate to have a linebacker cover a receiver."
Instead, for most of the first half on Sunday, New York crossed up the Falcons by running plays out of the bunch formation to the weak side. Then with 1:35 left in the half and the Falcons making adjustments, Martin took a pitch to the strong side and ran behind 312-pound right tackle Jason Fabini, who wiped out 203-pound cornerback Michael Booker. The result was a 13-yard gain, Martin's longest of the day.
With the Falcons focused on stopping that play, Vinny Testaverde threw for two third-quarter touchdowns. All told, Martin ran the toss sweep six times, for 46 yards. Despite sitting out the fourth quarter, he finished with 101 yards rushing as the Jets rolled to a 28-3 win.
"They knew what we were looking for and brought out a new package," Brooks said afterward. "Teams give you something different every week. This was just a lot more different than usual."