Here's one last look back at the 2016 season finale from Inside the Numbers. We start out with Bilal Powell — again, just because he was such a dynamic player doing such rare things for the Jets down the stretch, prompting head coach Todd Bowles to say on Jan. 2, "Going forward, getting him in the game and doing things is essential."
Bilal I — Double-Digit RunsPowell ripped off one big run after another in the 30-10 win over the Bills — a 23-yarder on the game's first offensive play, followed by carries of 11 and 10 yards in the first quarter, 12 and 10 in the second, and a 25-yarder on the first play of the third quarter.
Powell was the first Jet with at least six double-digit-yardage carries in a game in eight seasons. The last to do it was Thomas Jones with six 10-plussers in the 2008 home rout of the St. Louis Rams.
Bilal II — Chain MoverHand-in-hand with 10-yards-plus carries are first downs. And Powell put on a show in December. He had 10 first downs against the Bills after notching 10 vs. the Dolphins and 11 at San Francisco.
That is arguably the most incredible chain-moving feat in franchise history. The Jets had only two players reach 10 first downs in a game from 2004 through Game 12 this year — Curtis Martin in the '04 opener vs. the Bengals had 14 first downs and Jones in that '08 Rams game had 11. In fact, no Jet has had more than two such games in a single season since 1963. And Powell has done it three times in a four-game span.
It might go without saying that BP led the Jets this year in total first downs (68 to Matt Forte's 45), rush FDs (46), total third-down conversions (22) and rush third-down conversions (14).
Bilal III — Yards/CarryFollowing up on our Inside the Numbers lead item a week and a half ago, Powell did not lead NFL running backs this regular season in yards/carry. The Bills' Mike Gillislee, who needed 14 carries against the Jets to reach 100 for the year and qualify, got 15 carries. Even though the Jets defenders sat pretty hard on Gillislee (15 carries, 40 yards), he came in at 5.71 yards/carry, ahead of Powell's 5.51 and Buffalo teammate LeSean McCoy's 5.41.
But Powell's mark still set the Jets record for best average among qualifying backs, topping Freeman McNeil's 5.21 in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Sheldon's Minus PlaysLeonard Williams got the Leo's share of the defensive kudos this season — team sack and QB hits leader, Curtis Martin Team MVP and Pro Bowl first alternate. But upon further review, Sheldon Richardson, more quietly than usual, also had a big impact along the defensive front.
Richardson by my count totaled 20 tackles for loss/no gain (on runs and receptions, not including sacks) and 13 tackles for loss (weeding out the zero gains). Those numbers are exceptional in recent Jets history. I've never charted a 20-TFLNG season since 1995 (Bart Scott's 18.5 in 2010 was the previous high) nor another double-digit TFL season since 2004 (Muhammad Wilkerson's 9.5 in '14 was the top mark).
Richardson's highlights: He had two tackles for loss plus one sack in the Game 8 win over the Ravens, and his season high was 3.5 tackles for loss/no gain on New Year's Day vs. the Bills.
That was also the game that Sheldon was credited with the 8-yard loss and strip/fumble recovery of rookie RB Jonathan Williams. The loss was tied for the longest by the Jets this season with Steve McLendon's minus-8 TFL of Bengals WR James Wright on a reverse in the opener. And Richardson's and Jordan Jenkins' strips within three minutes of the third quarter were the first fumble recoveries by the defense in 11 games.
Middleton's RecoveryJust to put the finishing touch on this season with a play that we can only hope will be a harbinger for 2017, Doug Middleton's falling on Nick Folk's live, bouncing kickoff that the Bills' Mike Gillislee failed to cover produced one of the rarest NFL plays. The last time a kickoff was recovered by the kicking team in the end zone for a TD was in 1984 by the Giants' Phil McConkey vs. the Rams who had yet to leave Los Angeles for St. Louis. It had never happened before in a Jets game, for the Jets or against.
The recovery enabled the Jets to score their quickest 10 points in franchise history. The gameclock was at 3:21 and did not change from Folk's field goal through Middleton's recovery.
Finally, the TD snapped the Jets' 50-game drought without a special teams score of any kind. Next on the Green & White to-do list in 2017: end the droughts without a defensive TD (57 games since Antonio Allen's INT return vs. New England in '13), kickoff-return TD (75 games since Joe McKnight vs. the Texans in '12), and punt-return TD (79 games since Jeremy Kerley vs. the Bills in the '12 opener).