ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.— The wind was blowing a minimum of 20 miles per hour with gusts of 30 or more for all 60 minutes of the Jets matchup Sunday with the Bills.
The temperature was frigid, literally freezing, as snow fell from the sky at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
For all intents and purposes, this seemed like the perfect game for the Jets to pound the rock on the ground. The ideal situation for workhorse Chris Ivory to go off on an injury-depleted Buffalo defense.
But instead, with the season on the line, the Jets turned to Stevan Ridley, a back who entered the game with 61 yards rushing on the season and averaging 2.3 yards per carry.
“It was game-plan related,” Bowles said.
The game plan didn’t work.
In the Jets 22-17 defeat, Ridley managed just 29 yards on nine carries —an average of 3.2 yards per carry. Thirteen of those yards came on one play. Rarely were there any lanes for Ridley to run through, and when there were, he simply didn’t get there. The back looked every bit as slow and sluggish as he had in the season’s previous seven games.
Ivory, meanwhile, ran for 81 yards on six carries, highlighted by a 58-yard run in the second quarter. Still, even after his long run and Ridley’s struggles, it was No. 22 that continually was out-touching No. 33.
“We tried to give [Ivory] break a little bit, too, because he wasn’t 100 percent,” Bowles said. “But he was good enough to play. We could have gave him more plays in there, but the game didn’t dictate that way.”
During last week’s victory over the New England Patriots, Ivory suffered a minor knee injury. While he missed practice Wednesday, he was a limited participant on Wednesday and Thursday. With fellow running back Bilal Powell inactive due to an ankle injury, thus leading to Ridley’s “starting,” it didn’t appear that Ivory showed many limitations.
Removing his 58-yard run, the back still averaged nearly four yards per carry. But instead of continuing to feed him, the offense turned to Ridley and an air attack that was limited in effectiveness due to the wind. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 16-of-37 passes, and was intercepted three times.
After the game, Ivory spoke by his locker. He didn’t seem to support the theory that his diminished role was injury related.
“I think it’s just the game plan,” Ivory said.