EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Two weeks after infuriating his coach with a crude touchdown celebration, and parlaying it into an endorsement deal, New York Jets running back Isaiah Crowell delivered the best rushing day in franchise history.
Crowell rushed for a career-high 219 yards in a 34-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, including a 77-yard touchdown that sparked a 21-point explosion in the second quarter. Crowell set the franchise mark on just 15 carries for an NFL-record 14.6 average yards per carry.
This time, there were no attention-grabbing gestures in the end zone. He simply tossed the ball away, stared into the crowd for a moment and celebrated with teammates.
“I didn’t want to do anything that would cost my team a penalty,” Crowell said after the Jets (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak. “I just wanted to drop the ball; that’s how I felt at the time. That’s usually what I do.”
Crowell incurred the wrath of head coach Todd Bowles after wiping his rear end with the ball and firing it into the crowd after scoring his second touchdown in a Week 3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and later fined $13,369 by the league.
That didn’t stop him from becoming a pitch man for a company that sells a toilet-paper substitute for men.
On Sunday, instead of wiping his rear end, Crowell saved the team’s butt. The Jets were lifeless and scoreless until his touchdown.
This time, Bowles was complimentary.
“He’s a tough guy, he’s quicker than you think, he’s got very good feet,” Bowles said. “He doesn’t say much, but his work ethic has been very good.”
The previous franchise record was held by Thomas Jones, who ran for 210 yards in a 2009 win over the Buffalo Bills. Led Sunday by Crowell and Bilal Powell (99 yards), the Jets finished with 323, falling short of the team mark of 333, set in 1972 against New England.
Crowell’s touchdown run was the team’s longest since 1983, when Bruce Harper ran for a 78-yard score. The offensive line was dominant, opening huge holes in Denver’s defense. It was a stunning turnaround, considering the Jets had rushed for only 353 yards in the previous four games combined.
“It means a lot to me,” Crowell said of the franchise record, “but I can’t take any credit because the holes were wide open. [The line] did their job, and I did what I could do.”
The Jets’ offense snapped out of a three-game slump, amassing 512 total yards and producing a 200-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver (Robby Anderson) for only the second time in franchise history. Rookie Sam Darnold completed only 10 passes, but three went for touchdowns, including 76- and 35-yard strikes to Anderson.
It was the first time since the famous Joe Namath-Johnny Unitas shootout in 1972 that the Jets had two 75-yard touchdowns on offense in the same game.
“The offensive line, the way they dominated, we’re capable of that every single game,” said Darnold, who earned his first home win.
Crowell’s touchdown came on a “gap” run to the left side. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum and left guard James Carpenter had a key double-team block, with Anderson and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor helping with downfield blocks.
The Jets ran the same running play several times, and the Broncos couldn’t stop it.
“We talked about it before the game,” Beachum said. “Let’s take their 3-technique and put him in the lap of the linebacker. As an offensive line, we were able to do that.”
Crowell’s touchdown “inspired the offensive line,” Bowles said. Naturally, the Jets were happy he didn’t incur a celebration penalty.
“Isaiah has been in the end zone before,” Beachum said, “and he didn’t want to hurt the team.”