Given a rare chance to throw the ball, Raiders running back Darren McFadden wanted to show off the arm that once made him a star quarterback in high school.

Alas, his main receiver was covered. So McFadden stuck to his day job.

"I just felt like it was in my best interest to go ahead and run,'' McFadden said.

So McFadden ran -- and ran and ran -- shredding through the formidable New York Jets on his way to an NFL season-high 171 rushing yards Sunday.

The Raiders can rest his arm for another day. For now, they're happy to have the most dangerous pair of legs in football.

"He's able to get to point A to point B faster than anyone I've seen,'' Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell said after the Raiders' 34-24 victory at the O.co Coliseum. "He's just as fast as some of our receivers, and everyone knows we're a fast bunch."

Everyone knew that next week's game at the Coliseum would feature the NFL's top quarterback, with Tom Brady and the Patriots coming to town.

Apparently, the game will have the NFL's best running back, too.

Who's better? The Titans' Chris Johnson hasn't looked the same after a prolonged holdout. Chiefs sensation Jamaal Charles is out for the season with a torn ACL.


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McFadden's main contender is Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, a back similar in style and production. Both are sturdy enough to treat defensive backs like bowling pins and fast enough to leave a vapor trail.

On Sunday, McFadden got bonus points for degree of difficulty. Since Rex Ryan took over as Jets head coach in 2009, New York had allowed only two previous running backs to rush for 100 yards: Maurice Jones-Drew (123) and Matt Forte (113).

McFadden added his name to the list. And he did it by halftime.

"He's the best back in football, bar none,'' Raiders coach Hue Jackson said.

Like Campbell, McFadden is benefiting from the Raiders' emerging supporting cast. McFadden is also getting a boost from a coach who sought out his opinion about how to use him.

McFadden said he didn't go overboard with input. He just asked for plays that allow him to get downhill, "to make one cut and go,'' he said. But he added that "I like being on the edge sometimes so that I can use my speed more."

McFadden got one of those in the second quarter, when he scooted around left end and looked up to see the blocking the way it's drawn up on the chalkboard. Tight end Kevin Boss sealed one lane, and receivers Chaz Schilens and Derek Hagan took out a Jets defender apiece.

McFadden repaid their handiwork by sizzling 70 yards for a touchdown. Radio man Greg Papa shouted that McFadden was "galloping through the pasture!" It was the longest run against the Jets since 1998.

"You have to set edges on this guy,'' Ryan said. "We never did that, and we know he's got great speed. That's why the ball has to be turned inside. It wasn't turned inside, and he made the 70-yard run."

As he ran, McFadden used his typical blend of speed and intimidation. He sensed that the Jets defensive backs were not all that keen on challenging a 6-foot-2, 210-pound head of steam.

"Cornerbacks don't really want to tackle a big running back,'' he said. "So you just have to go out there and try to make a move on them to make them miss."

McFadden's other big play came late in the third quarter, when he tried to dust off the skills that made him a dual-threat quarterback at Oak Grove High School in Little Rock, Ark.

On a first-and-10 from midfield, McFadden got the ball on a halfback option play. By design, he was supposed to throw the ball back to Campbell, but the quarterback was well covered.

So McFadden took off, scrambling for 27 yards, and as he ran he kept pump faking as if he were still going to throw. It's a trick he remembered from way back in Little Rock.

"In high school, you can be downfield and pump the ball, and the defenders will freeze,'' he said, laughing. "But it doesn't work at this level."

McFadden's other tricks, however, work just fine in the NFL. And his career-best performance Sunday signaled his arrival as the Bay Area's next superstar.

Jackson was finishing up his media session Sunday when McFadden poked his head into the interview room. "This is the guy you need to talk to,'' Jackson said. "I told you guys that he's one of the best players in football.

"He demonstrated that today."

Contact Daniel Brown at dbrown@mercurynews.com.