Matt Forte injury paves way for Jets RB Bilal Powell to take over

Jets fans could be seeing much less of star running back Matt Forte over the final three weeks of the 2016 season. But there is a silver lining.

The knee injury Forte suffered in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime victory over the 49ers will “definitely” open up more opportunities for Bilal Powell down the stretch, Todd Bowles said Monday. Forte underwent an MRI on his knee and is “day-to-day,” Bowles said.

Forte was knocked out of Sunday’s game in the first quarter, and that cleared the way for a career day from Powell, who carried the ball 29 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 19-yard scamper in overtime. He also caught five passes for 34 yards.

Bilal Powell, Bryce Petty lead Jets to overtime win against 49ers

The 145 yards were the most by a Jet running back since Chris Ivory amassed 146 yards in a win over Washington in 2015. Which begs the question: Why hasn’t Powell earned more touches this season? He finished with 34 touches Sunday. His previous season high was 11.

“We have two good backs. Matt’s a good back as well. It was just Bilal’s turn to shine yesterday, and he did,” Bowels said Monday on a conference call. “There’s no reason he shouldn’t play more, but Matt was playing well at the same time. So you try to split the time and split the reps out, and yesterday it worked out in his favor.”

Bowles has a point. Before Sunday’s victory, which ended a four-game losing streak for the Jets, Forte was on pace for his first 1,000-yard rushing season since 2014. He did nothing on the field to warrant losing playing time.

Bilal Powell exploded on Sunday against the 49ers with 145 rushing yards.

Bilal Powell exploded on Sunday against the 49ers with 145 rushing yards.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

All the while, though, Bowles knew what type of player he had waiting behind Forte.

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“His work ethic,” Bowles said when asked what stands out about Powell, who the Jets selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. “He’s always the same every day. You know what you’re getting out of the guy. He’s going to put in a hard day’s work. And he’s going to bust his butt no matter whether he’s playing special teams or offense or anything else. He just loves to play the game, and that’s rare. He kind of has an old soul, (like) an old-school player. But he’s very much a modern-day player.”

Powell’s breakout game was part of the most consistent rushing performance from the Jets this season. Despite falling behind, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey stuck with the ground game, feeding Powell’s hot hand. A lot of that had to do with second-year quarterback Bryce Petty being under center.

In previous weeks, with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the offense, Gailey abandoned the run when trailing in the second half, turning to the passing game to lead a potential comeback. But he didn’t have that luxury Sunday with Petty, who was making just his second career start.

In addition, the Jets were playing against one of the worst run defenses in the league.

“We tried to establish the run,” Bowles said. “With a young quarterback in there, you want to try to be able to run the ball, and we were having some success running the ball. Even though we were down, we stuck with it and just didn’t try to open up the passing game and just let Bryce pass it all the time. So we tried to establish the run, and I think we did a good job doing that.”  

Tags:
nfl
new york jets
matt forte
bilal powell
sports injuries

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