If today's game against his former team was extra special to RB Chris Ivory, he sure has one fine poker face.
Poked and prodded throughout this week and asked every which way imaginable in the locker game postgame if playing the New Orleans Saints — the team that traded him away to the Jets for a fourth-round pick — was extra special at all, Ivory repeatedly insisted that this was just another game.
Asked if today's 18-carry, 139-yard, one-touchdown performance was a statement against his former team, Ivory said, "I think I did well with the opportunities I had today. I went with my role today and we won. You guys want me to say that, but that's just not how it feels. I really look at it just like another game."
Like many, however, head coach Rex Ryan wasn't quite buying that.
"No matter who we play, he just wants the ball," Ryan said at the podium after today's 26-20 victory, adding that Ivory was the last player to run out of the tunnel during pregame introductions. "The kid loves to play. To say that there's nothing special about going against your old team — yeah, right. There always is, no matter who it is, whether it's high school, college or pro. It makes no difference. You want to play against your former team and have a good showing, and clearly he did."
Coming into this week, the New Orleans defense of coordinator Rob Ryan — Rex Ryan's twin brother, of course — ranked last in the NFL, allowing 4.8 yards per carry.
And we were able to exploit their Achilles heel.
It was Ivory's second-highest yardage total of his four-year career, as well as his second 100-plus-yard performance in our last two home games. He ripped off three runs of 25 yards or more, the first time he's ever accomplished that feat in his career. And his 7.7 yards per carry were the most by any Jets 100-yard rusher since Thomas Jones averaged 9.5 yards per carry on 22 rushes vs. the Bills in Week 6 of the '09 season.
"We knew that they weren't that good against the run," Ivory said, "and we ended up dialing up a couple of good plays. We had the right scheme against that defense."
Perhaps the best playcall by coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and executed by Ivory and Co. was on second-and-12 from our own 2-yard line toward the beginning of the second quarter. It was a run right, RT Austin Howard and the O-line sealed the edge, and Ivory took off, bursting down the right sideline for 52 yards before finally being pushed out of bounds by rookie S Kenny Vaccaro.
The Jets ended up getting to the 3 before settling for a field goal and cutting the Saints' lead to 7-6.
"I just felt good," Ivory said of his longest run of the season. "Big momentum shift. I wish we could've scored, but that didn't happen. I think it definitely put the momentum on our side and got the guys going. It was big."
"I think it was huge, because I got a penalty, a false start," G Willie Colon said, "so he saved my butt in that regard because it kind of erased it, but he just had a great game today. You've got to give him credit. The kid's been battling injuries since he's been here and every time he's getting the keys to the car, he's driven it right through defenses, so I'm proud of him."
QB Geno Smith set career lows in pass attempts (19), completions (8) and completion percentage (42.1%), but he added his third rushing touchdown of the season. His biggest contribution, though, was not turning the ball over, while our defense forced two (and almost three, four, five and six) interceptions off of QB Drew Brees.
"Tremendous. Tremendous," Smith said of Ivory's performance. "He broke a few long runs. He ran tough as he always does. It's just good to have him out there and see him carrying the offense, which is something that he and Nick [Mangold] and the guys on the offensive line did."
"Like I said earlier, I treat every game the same," Ivory reiterated, "but it does feel good to come out with a win. "We won. That's what matters. We won. And hopefully we can continue to do that and make the playoffs."