Throughout the season, head coach Todd Bowles has preached the next man up mentality. In the Jets’ 23-17 overtime victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, RB Bilal Powell answered the call.
Early in the first quarter, Matt Forté exited the game with a knee injury and was ruled out of action. In his place, Powell ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
“He did a gentleman’s job,” Bowles said. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if we would have even won this game. He single handedly, from my point of view at least, broke every tackle he could break. He caught every ball. He ran. He blocked. He did everything, and he had outstanding effort.”
While Powell is soft spoken, his teammates were not shy to express their sentiments regarding his performance.
“Bilal has been working hard every week,” said Forté, who is awaiting test results to determine the severity of his injury. “It shows. We didn’t start fast, but we hung around long enough so we could run the ball effectively and he had two touchdowns. It was great.”
Powell’s first score came midway through the fourth quarter as he took a Bryce Petty handoff from the five-yard line and torqued his way across the goal line. In the extra frame, the Jets were faced with a third-and-4 from the 49ers’ 19. While most people in the stadium thought the Jets would settle for a field goal attempt, Powell had other ideas as he took the handoff to pay dirt, snapping the team’s four-game losing streak in the process.
“It was just a good call,” Powell said of his fourth touchdown this season. “It shows a lot with the coaches calling it and putting it on my back. The offensive line executed up front and made it easier for me. I just ran to what I saw and I give the glory to all of the guys up front.”
Powell was vital in helping the team overcome a 14-point deficit at the half, accounting for both of the team’s touchdowns and 10 of their 24 first downs. The sixth-year veteran totaled a career-high 179 scrimmage yards, the most by a Jets running back on the road since Hall of Famer Curtis Martin in 2004. He also became just the second Jets ‘back since 1975 to tally 145-or-more rushing yards and two-or-more rushing touchdowns on the road since John Riggins.
Sunday also marked the Louisville product’s second career game with over 100 rushing yards (2013 vs. BUF) and his fourth career game of at least 100 scrimmage yards.
“In our room we know that guy’s a baller,” Petty said following his first pro victory. “I don’t know another word to describe it. He makes plays that he shouldn’t make. Defensive guys have him dead in the right and he just slips and moves in certain ways that he gets past guys. I love when he touches the ball because good things normally happen.”