EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Elijah McGuire was pretty excited watching from the sidelines when his teammate, Bilal Powell, burst up the middle for a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. So imagine how he felt two quarters later when he nearly matched it with a long touchdown run of his own?
"Oh, you can cancel Christmas," the rookie joked after the Jets' 23-20 overtime win at MetLife Stadium.
He was kidding (most likely), but everything about the Jets' running game felt good on Sunday afternoon, even with veteran Matt Forte sitting out with turf toe. Powell took the lead rushing 21 times for a career-high 163 yards. And McGuire followed with 10 carries for 93 yards of his own.
The Jets totaled an impressive 256 yards, which kept the Jaguars' aggressive defense on its heels for most of the game.
"We talked all week about establishing the run game," McGuire said. "We did that for the past few weeks and we just wanted to build off that going into this game.
"And that's exactly what we did."
That started with Powell, who took off up the middle on his first carry of the game for that 75-yard score. He actually hit the ground about eight yards into the run after hurdling over a Jaguars defender. But Powell alertly got up while the Jaguars thought he was down and continued running for a touchdown.
Video reviews seemed to confirm that he was never touched.
"I just saw the guy going for my legs and I just jumped," Powell said. "I didn't feel anyone touch me and I didn't hear a whistle. That's something that we practiced throughout training camp -- effort, finishing, and that showed today."
McGuire showed that too with his 69-yard touchdown run. The Jets have been thrilled with what they've seen from their sixth-rounder out of Louisiana-Lafayette, and a source said coaches had been talking about giving him a bigger role even before Forte got hurt. This week, Jets offensive coordinator John Morton talked about how McGuire acts and plays like a veteran.
Powell said he's seen that too.
"He approaches the game like a true professional," Powell said. "You can't really even tell that he's a rookie just by the way he approaches it. He's just so explosive, so smart and so coachable. You saw that out there today."
Together, they were a devastating 1-2 punch that gave the Jets a lift and then helped steady their offense ship when things began to go wrong. With a passing game that's still coming together behind a 38-year-old journeyman quarterback, the rushing attack could be what leads the Jets the rest of the way.
"It's (been) steady improvement from our guys," head coach Todd Bowles said of the Jets' rushing attack. "Hopefully we'll continue to improve week by week. We just want to keep making progress."