FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets found out what second-year quarterback Bryce Petty could do Sunday afternoon after he recovered from a slow start to direct a 23-17 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Even more important, the Jets were reminded what running back Bilal Powell can do.
The perpetually underused Powell had one of the best games of the century by a Jets running back after he stepped in for injured Matt Forte and rushed 29 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, and added 34 yards receiving on five catches.
The 179 yards of total offense are the ninth most by a Jets running back since 2000. Hall of Famer Curtis Martin reached at least 179 yards of total offense four times, and Thomas Jones, Chris Ivory and Shonn Greene did it once each.
That's pretty good company, yet Powell's breakout couldn't have come as too much of a surprise to coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, who are the third regime to like Powell's no-nonsense ways and jack-of-all-trades skill set.
Powell, whom Mike Tannenbaum selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, has twice re-signed with the Jets as a free agent -- first in the spring of 2015 and again last spring when he inked a three-year deal.
"You know what you're getting out of the guy," Bowles said on a conference call Monday. "He's going to put in a hard day's work and he's going to bust his butt no matter where he's playing -- special teams or offense or anything else. He just loves to play the game and that's rare. He kind of has an old soul as an old-school player, but he's very much a modern-day player."
So why did it take an injury to Forte for the Jets to feature Powell so heavily? Powell has battled numerous nagging injuries during his six-year career and might not stand up to a feature back workload, but there would seem to be a happy medium between running him into the ground and all but ignoring him.
Even though the Jets have been in hide-the-quarterback mode for months, Powell entered Sunday with just 29 carries and 45 total touches in the last seven games. Before Sunday, he had not carried the ball more than eight times in a game this season. And in last Monday's 41-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Powell got fewer touches (one) than street free agent C.J. Spiller (three), who was released the next day.
"We have two good backs," Bowles said. "It was just Bilal's turn to shine yesterday and he did. You wait and get opportunities. He shined. There's no reason he shouldn't play more."
Not anymore, that's for sure.