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Bilal Powell keys ground attack that unlocks offense

Buffalo Bills strong safety Da'Norris Searcy (no. 25)

Buffalo Bills strong safety Da'Norris Searcy (no. 25) tries to stop Jets running back Bilal Powell (no. 29) during the first half. (Sept. 22, 2013) Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Jets third-year running back Bilal Powell rushed for a career-high 149 yards in Sunday's 27-20 win over the Bills, nearly doubling his previous high in helping the offense churn out a whopping 513 yards, the most in the Rex Ryan era.

Surprised? Not Ryan.

"We've seen this from him," the Jets' coach said afterward. "It's not like we're surprised by it. He's durable, dependable, and just a much better player I think than he's been given credit for."

He certainly showed it on Sunday. Powell ran with great power between the tackles, and even got to the outside to take advantage of a Buffalo defense that grew progressively more weary as the game progressed.

"We were just playing up-tempo, just get more plays, wear the defense down," said Powell, whose previous high was 78 rushing yards last Dec. 9 against the Jaguars. "The running game got going. You never know how a game goes until you get into it. I think we did a good job of running the ball."

But as well as Powell did, he'll look back with some regret on his effort.

"When you go back and look at film, you feel like you left yards out there," he said. "You come in [Monday] and correct some things and look forward to moving on."

Ryan has constantly stressed the "Ground & Pound" style of offense, using the run as a staple to not only grind on opposing defenses, but to help the passing game by opening up the play-action and at least taking some of the pressure off the quarterback. It worked just as he'd hoped.

Powell's efforts were especially important after the Jets lost Chris Ivory to a nagging hamstring pull that had previously bothered him through much of training camp. But Powell didn't seem to mind shouldering the extra carries. And his offensive linemen were heartened by the performance, even if they said it could have been better.

"We hope to continue to build on [the running game]," center Nick Mangold said. "We did some good things and obviously there are things we need to clean up. There's still plenty of work to do, but hopefully we can continue with the good things we've done."

Powell's efforts also helped Geno Smith gain the split second of time by keeping the defense back on its heels.

Smith responded by throwing for 331 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His second score went to Santonio Holmes on a 69-yard touchdown with 9:23 to play in the fourth quarter.

"The kid hung in there," Ryan said of Smith. "Our team just found a way to win."

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