Michael Carter left Sunday’s game with what the Jets believe is an ankle sprain, leaving Ty Johnson and rookie Zonovan “Bam” Knight as the only healthy backs with James Robinson a healthy scratch.
The result? Knight and Johnson ran for 132 yards on just 19 carries, and that efficiency and output helped the Jets rack up almost 450 yards of total offense in a 31-10 drubbing of the Bears.
“They started running a lot of two- shell, and it opened up once the balance started happening,” head coach Robert Saleh said of the Jets’ game plan. “Credit to Ty and Bam, they ran really hard and broke a lot of tackles, so a lot of yards after contact there.”
The elevation of Knight was a first this season, as the Jets decided to make James Robinson a healthy scratch, Saleh saying that there are still some things the former Jaguar is working on and learning.
“Bam’s been doing a really nice job, and you know his style of running – one cut, get vertical,” Saleh said after Sunday’s win. “I feel like the past few weeks there’s been a lot of meat on the bone in the run game, and I felt if we could get vertical and get rolling, Bam would be a good change of pace because he gets vertical pretty quick.”
In the end, Knight led the team in both carries (14) and yards (69) on a day where seven different players had a designed rush and the team posted 158 yards total.
“Let’s talk about Bam: he’s a dog, too,” said Ty Johnson, whose 62 yards included a 32-yard TD run. “He did his thing, and I told him it was going to be his game; he knows the playbook, so he just had to do his thing. We’ve been locked in ever since he came here, so I’m really proud of him, like a big brother.”
“I’ve always had the mindset that I’m the best running back out there on the field; you have to have that mindset, especially at this level,” Knight added. “Being a rookie I’m still figuring things out, but I’ve been learning from the older guys on how to get to Sunday, and it was a blessing to be out there.”
The offensive line, which got George Fant back and was whole once again, was a huge part of that.
“If you talk to any of the linemen, they want to run the ball, they know we can get the job done. I believe in them, Bam believes in them,” Johnson said.
“Guys throughout the week handled themselves really well,” added guard Laken Tomlinson. “Attention to detail was great all week in practice and it showed out there on the field. Offensive line was protecting and it felt great to get the run game rolling; definitely a lot of fun running the rock, and we love running the ball. Amazing running the ball out there today.”
Mike White’s ability to make good decisions and get the passing game going certainly helped, as the Jets racked up over 450 yards of offense, but for the run game, it was especially satisfying knowing they were four or five guys down the depth chart doing it.
“I think it was just taking what we do at practice in trusting our tracks and landmarks and letting the offensive line handle the rest,” Knight said. “It was really just everything we work on in practice and translating it over to the game, and being positive.”
“That positive energy is contagious, and when you have a guy like him come in and spread that, guys feel it, especially on the field,” added Tomlinson. “When you feed that, you create positive energy all around.”
Breece Hall is out for the season, Carter’s status is unknown, and Robinson’s future is a question mark – but for the Jets, a little Bam and Ty might be all they need to keep the thunder and lightning going.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN