The first thing about Jets running back Chris Ivory that gets the attention of a defense is that he's 222 pounds of pure power between the tackles, a brutal punisher. But just using Ivory as a battering ram is as dangerous to him as to opposing defenses because of the dents he absorbs.
So the Jets had to find ways to use Ivory's other asset -- his speed. Washington got burned as Ivory attacked outside the tackles for much of his 146 yards rushing and joined the passing game with another 50 receiving yards on three catches in a 34-20 Jets' victory Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"He's our bell cow," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We rely on him. He comes through every time."
Ivory has been dominant this season with 460 rushing yards for a league-leading 115.0-yard average in the four games he's played. Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall recently called Ivory the "best running back in the NFL," and he did nothing to argue otherwise Sunday.
Sidestepping that debate, Bowles said: "We know how much we love him. That's all that matters."
Ivory simply said, "Yeah, I feel like I'm one of them."
Washington's coaching staff came prepared to throw the kitchen sink at Ivory in the middle of the field but got outsmarted.
"We made such a focal point on everybody coming to the party and tackling Ivory that sometimes we got out of a gap, and then he did a great job of keeping his feet alive and then making people miss and getting to the outside," coach Jay Gruden said. "He's one heck of a running back."
The first wrinkle the Jets threw at Washington's defense came when Ivory caught a short pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and turned it into a 23-yard gain during an 83-yard drive that ended with Ivory's 1-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7. Ivory turned another dump-off into a 24-yard gain to set up a field goal that tied the score at 13.
"They were in a zone defense and the linebackers dropped out, and I was the guy underneath," Ivory said. "You don't always have to go deep. You can turn a short pass into a big play, and that's what we did."
Against a Washington defense anchored by 354-pound nose tackle Terrance Knighton, the Jets often aimed Ivory off tackle.
"The way they were pressing us, they tried to keep everything between the tackles," Jets right guard Willie Colon said. "They kept bracketing the outside. We knew if we were able to attack the outside, Chris has the ability to outrun a lot of guys.
"A lot of safeties and corners don't want to tackle him one-on-one. When they see him coming, they start backpedaling a little bit."
When Ivory made a nimble cut to break to the outside on a 54-yard run that set up a field goal for a 10-7 lead, Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland went all-out to prevent a touchdown.
"The toss was one of those things where you give the illusion that it's an outside play, but it's still an inside run," Ivory said. "At times it was an outside run, but we pressed inside and bounced outside."
Asked if this is the best he's ever played, Ivory smiled and said, "One of the better years, but I don't think it's the best football I've played."
Yet, he meant.