Losing by two points with 15 seconds remaining, a desperate Geno Smith set off running to his right looking for something, anything, that might give the Jets a chance to win the game. As he stepped out of bounds to stop the clock, that thing that he was looking for unexpectedly found him. Buccaneers linebacker, Lavonte David, hit the rookie out of bounds drawing a 15 yard personal foul penalty. The inexcusable error gave the Jets one last chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and they did.
Nick Folk kicked a game winning 48 yard field goal to give the Jets (1-0) an 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1).
“Holy cow. We’ll take it, there’s no question,” a jubilant Rex Ryan said after the game. “We talk about a resilient group. We certainly have one. We fought all the way to the end. One team won the fight.”
The Buccaneers had previously kicked what they thought was the game winning field goal with 38 seconds left; following a Jets defensive mistake which allowed wide receiver Vincent Jackson to break away for 37 yards.
But displaying the poise of a veteran the Jets rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, told his offensive line “It’s never over,” and that if they can give him some protection, he’ll find a way to win. Smith then completed a 25 yard pass to Kellen Winslow Jnr and scrambled for 10 yards, which led to the game winning field goal.
“It wasn’t a Hollywood script,” guard Willie Colon said. “It wasn’t ‘Remember the Titans’ or anything like that. It was just Geno telling us that if we give him some protection we’ll find a way.”
In his first proffesional start, Smith experienced a typical rookie performance; he had high’s, and he had lows. But ultimately, he did enough, as he completed 24-of-38 passes for 256 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“I had some ups and downs,” Smith told reporters after the game. “Not all of them are going to be pretty. Just good, great, to come home with that victory and get a win and gain some momentum going into this next week.”
The rookie quarterback consistently moved the ball, using not only his arm but his athleticism to extend drives. He scrambled 6 times for 47 yards, which drew the praise of his head coach.
“Where he really helped us was when he ran,” Ryan said. “He made some big plays running. He had to make some plays, and those plays helped us win the game.”
While Smith impressed, the backbone of the Jets victory was the defense. Taking over the defensive play calling duties, Rex Ryan, confused and bewildered the Buccaneers. The defense gave up just 18 points, and held the Buccaneers dynamic running back, Doug Martin, to only 67 yards rushing. They also sacked Josh Freeman three times, contributed two turnovers, and allowed only 12 first downs.
“I think we did pretty well,” Jets defensive leader Antonio Cromartie said. “For us, we just have to make sure we go in tomorrow to watch this film, clean it up as quick as possible and get ready for New England. This game is over with.”
The Jets now have a short week of preparation before they travel to New England to face the Patriots on Thursday night.