Le’Veon Bell took the ball for a 5-yard run on the Jets’ first offensive play. And there it was, the NFL record, fastest to 8,000 yards from scrimmage, in only 63 games.
Bell had needed 4 yards — and had been waiting more than a year and a half to get them.
The three-time Pro Bowl running back hadn’t played since Jan. 14, 2018, a postseason game with the Steelers. He didn’t play last season because of his contract dispute with Pittsburgh or in any of last month’s preseason games with the Jets after signing a four-year, $52.5 million deal in the offseason.
So Bell was happy to be living life on the run again in Sunday’s season opener against the Bills at MetLife Stadium. But after the game, he wasn’t thinking about breaking Eric Dickerson’s record. Bell was thinking about Buffalo 17, Jets 16, and how his new team came from 16 points ahead to lose.
“It’s definitely overshadowed by losing,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a nice accolade, I guess. But right now, it don’t really matter. I’m just trying to get a ‘W’ at the end of the day. All those stats and everything feels good and I’m sure other people feel happy for me. Right now, I’m not happy for myself because we didn’t get a win.”
Bell finished with 92 yards from scrimmage and accounted for the only eight points by the offense after catching a 9-yard touchdown pass and the ensuing two-point conversion throw from Sam Darnold with 7:01 left in the third.
He carried 17 times for 60 yards, only 3.5 per rush, but he did have a 12-yard carry and a hard-fought fourth-and-1 run that picked up a first down late in the game. He also caught six passes for 32 yards, with a long gain of 11.
“I know it has been [about 20 months], but it didn’t feel like that,” Bell said. “I felt like normal. I went out there to play football and I felt good being out there and having fun.”
Darnold had been curious about how Bell would look, and he liked the view.
“Le’Veon looked great,” he said. “The way he was running out there and the way he was catching the ball, too, running routes, it looked like he really hadn’t missed any time.”
It was 16-0 after Bell’s eight points, but the Jets ended up punting on seven of their 11 possessions.
“It’s very frustrating,” Bell said. “ . . . I felt it even on the field that we’re just leaving points out there . . . It was minor details.
“It was nothing the Bills were doing. Those guys played great. They have good players. You’ve got to give those guys their respect,” he added. “But it wasn’t nothing that we didn’t prepare for . . . It was just guys, including myself, weren’t making the right, proper reads, and we weren’t making enough plays.”
Now the Jets need to bounce back.
“When you take a loss like this, it kind of defines you,” Bell said. “We want to see how guys respond.”
Fastest to reach 8,000 yards from scrimmage:
Le’Veon Bell 63
Eric Dickerson 64
Edgerrin James 65
LaDainian Tomlinson 65
Jim Brown 67
Marcus Allen 68