There was a silver lining in the cloud that hovered over MetLife Stadium during the Jets' 45-17 loss on Sunday to the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills.
Among the few positives was the play of three rookies: RB Michael Carter, WR Elijah Moore and CB Michael Carter II. Moore and Carter each scored a fourth TD of the season; while on defense Carter II covered a Buffalo fumble.
No. 32, taken in the fourth round of this year's NFL draft (No. 107 overall) out of North Carolina, showed again why he has emerged as the Jets' No. 1 running back in a running-back-by-committee scheme -- with Ty Johnson and Tevin Coleman (who returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury). The soft-spoken Carter was ready to share the ball after sharing snaps with Denver's Javonte Williams (taken in the second round, No. 35 overall) for the Tar Heels.
From his play the past month or so, Carter has shown he has the potential to be a featured back for years to come. On Sunday, he had 16 carries for a modest 39 yards and grabbed 4 passes for 43 yards. Heading into Sunday's game, Carter had more yards from scrimmage than any other rookie running back in the NFL.
"A lot of credit to them," Carter said after the game, referring to the Bills. "They're in Super Bowl mode. "I know I can be a lot cleaner. How did I do? I'll figure that out tomorrow."
Carter had a strong game at New England on Oct. 24 (37 rushing yards; 67 yards on 8 receptions) then had a breakout performance the next week in the Jets' upset win over visiting Cincinnati. He ran for 77 yards and added 95 receiving in QB Mike White's triumphant, first NFL start.
He entered the franchise record book with his total output of 172 yards from scrimmage against the Bengals, the fourth-best for a rookie rusher and the best since Joe McKnight had 173 in a January 2011 win over Buffalo. At 22 years, 177 days, Carter became the youngest running back in Jets history with more than 170 scrimmage yards in a game. In addition, he's the Jets' first rookie to total at least 100 yards from scrimmage in consecutive games since Freeman McNeil in November 1981.
His numbers were down a bit in the last two one-sided losses as the Jets were forced to chase games, first at Indianapolis and on Sunday against the Bills.
Asked about the postgame message from head coach Robert Saleh, Carter said: "We have to find a way. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot [the Jets had five turnovers]. I think we did that way too much today. We're a good team, we just didn't show it."