Chris Ivory may be channeling Teddy Roosevelt, who once famously wrote: "Speak softly and carry a big stick. You will go far."
Off the field, Ivory has been a soft-spoken guy ever since he arrived in the draft day trade with New Orleans. On the field ...
"The game, yeah, it gets a little different out there," the fourth-year running back said at his Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker this week. "There's a time to switch it on and off. It's a different feeling when you step on the field, you're competing, and you've got a guy that's trying to take your head off. It always changes the mentality."
And in those situations, Ivory's physicality has come out impressively this season. He's had a number of big running plays and games once he finally started getting the ball.
■ He softened up the Patriots for our overtime win on Oct. 20 with 34 carries for 104 yards.
■ He went marching in against the Saints with a 52-yard burst from his 2-yard line, a 3-yard touchdown run and 139 yards on the day.
■ He ripped off a late 69-yard dash against the Bills and bounced outside for a 32-yarder vs. the Dolphins.
And Ivory had a classic spinning, tackle-slipping score Sunday to help stabilize our 37-27 win over the Raiders. Here was the partial call on CBS of the run and the replay:
Marv Albert: "What a spec-TAC-ular run for 15 yards and a touchdown, Chris Ivory."
Rich Gannon: "He's one of the best in football at yards after contact. ... Talk about running with determination. There's two missed tackles, there's three missed tackles, there's four, five. What a great effort."
Ivory now has a team-leading 639 yards and three TDs on 146 carries. Another 78 rushing yards this season and he'll better the career-high 716 yards he gained for the Saints in his rookie season of 2010.
Chris was not ready to label that Raiders TD run as his trademark for the season.
"I just pride myself in making explosive plays," he said. "I just try to make plays when there's not really anything there. I think that's big, when you turn something out of nothing."
And the way Ivory's been doing that has been with his trademark yards after contact. I've been tracking our backs' yards gained after their first significant contact on every run for the past six seasons. Ivory's YAC is the best among the 13 RB seasons with 50 or more carries since 2008. Here are the top YAC backs in that modest sampling (*through 13 games):
For those who prefer words to numbers, Ivory's rushing style has been called "angry" all year by Jets radio broadcasters Bob Wischusen and Marty Lyons. Fullback Tommy Bohanon, who's thrown a few blocks for No. 33 this year, said he's "definitely a violent runner."
"Chris, he's a monster out there," said RT Austin Howard, another of his blockers. "There's something in him that I've just never seen before in a running back. He likes to block [ask Raiders LB Sio Moore about that], he likes the physicality of hitting, he likes to go out there and make some type of impact whether he has the ball or not."
And Carolina MLB Luke Kuechly, who presumably will run into Ivory several times, complimented him by listing several of his traits and observing: "He's one of those guys, at the end of the game he's still going as hard as when he started."
Ivory returned the praise to the leading tackler for the NFL's new No. 1 run defense, but said he never looks at any 1-on-1 matchups he might face in a game.
"For me it's about what we do as a unit, how we block it up on certain defenses that they show us and just how we execute," Ivory said. "So I don't think one guy can wreck what we do.
And as for preferring to running around or over people, Ivory said his style "all depends on the down and situation. If I need a yard, yeah, that's the mindset. But if not, if I have a little space to work with, I'll try to work with it. Other than that, my mentality is I just won't be denied. So I'm going to come at you and just try to make a statement."
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