EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All week, Chris Ivory's new New York Jets teammates could sense that he was more intense than usual. The Jets running back, acquired this offseason after three years with New Orleans, is a naturally quiet guy, but that’s just on the surface.
“You could tell this was different, that it wasn't just another regular season game for him,” wide receiver David Nelson said. “He's not very talkative, but you could see the way he was running, the way he was paying attention. I'm not saying he doesn't always pay attention, but you could see the look in his eyes.”
Maybe that’s why Jets coach Rex Ryan named Ivory a captain for the game, and picked him as the last man out of the tunnel. And once he ran out, Ivory just kept running. Later, he couldn’t help but crack a smile when asked about his performance -- 139 rushing yards on 18 carries and a touchdown -- in New York's 26-20 victory against the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s my old team,” Ivory said, and he smiled in a way that conveyed some pride. “I’m not satisfied. I’m happy but I don’t think you can ever get too satisfied with your performance. Hopefully we can continue to do that and make the playoffs.”
The Jets can consider the playoffs a possibility now that they are 5-4 heading into their bye week. The Jets tend to do well when the running game is humming, and that started during the second offensive series against the Saints when Ivory reeled off a 27- yard run.
“I know it meant a lot to him,” kick returner Josh Cribbs said, “because he’s making them kick themselves in the butt like ‘Aw, look at him he’s running all over us.’ Everybody wants to do good against their old team.”
Ivory nearly equaled his career high of 158 yards with the Saints against Tampa Bay in 2010. But there weren’t a lot of games like that. Ivory was in a logjam of four running backs in a passing offense in New Orleans. Ultimately, New York may have been a good landing spot. The Jets were willing to pay him, and Ivory signed a three-year, $6 million contract in April.
“We know if he’s healthy, this young man has the ability to be a punch-you-in-the-face type of back,” Ryan said.
And his health has been the knock on Ivory, who came into training camp with a hamstring injury and has other injuries along the way. But he seems to have gotten beyond that. After the game, Ivory got a chance to shake hands with his old teammates.
“It was all love after,” Ivory said. “We had a tight bond over there. Over there three years, you’re going to have a pretty good bond. Definitely had a lot of congratulations going on.”
And he spoke to his old coach, Sean Payton.
“He congratulated me and told me I handled everything well,” Ivory said. “It was good.”
And perhaps that closes a chapter for Ivory, who has an opportunity to be more productive alongside Bilal Powell with the Jets. Clearly, Ivory is looking forward and his performance might have been a reminder to his old team, but it puts his new team in a good spot heading into the bye.
“It’s huge, but at the same time, he’s a Jet now,” Colon said. “It doesn’t matter what (the Saints) feel like, it’s what we do. And he stood up for us in a major way.”