The New York Jets watched their young quarterback come of age on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons. With under 2-minutes remaining rookie Geno Smith led the Jets on an 8-play, 55 yard, game-winning drive, which ended with a 43-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
Smith suffered through a week of negative press thanks to a brutal four-turnover performance in last week’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. But the rookie bounced back in front of a national audience and played a flawless game. Smith completed 16-of-20, for 199-yards, with 3-touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He also engineered his second career comeback, as he led the Jets to an improbable 30-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, absolutely we knew it was going to be a tough game,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “I’m glad we won this way because you know, it took every one of us. And it wasn’t that you leaned on one side or the other side,whatever, it took every one of us and we played fearless.”
To overcome the Falcons and their plethora of weapons — Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan — the Jets need much more than a strong performance from their rookie quarterback. They also needed their number-two ranked defense to shut down the Falcons potent offense. Future All-Pro defensive tackle Mohammed Wilkerson led the charge, and the Jets defense did their job, stifling Matt Ryan all-night.
“It was just a bounceback for us,” Rookie Defensive End Sheldon Richardson said of the victory. “We had a tough loss last week. We most definitely came with it this week. Everybody was clicking.”
The defense was especially clicking at the end of the first half, when the Falcons, sensing the game was getting away from them, elected to go for it on 4th down with 7 seconds on the clock. The Falcons foolishly attempted to run up the middle, and the Jets defense did as they had done all night and stuffed Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield — a huge boost in confidence for the Jets heading into halftime with a 17-7 lead.
“I knew that they were going to do it. I could just feel it by the mentality of the game,” said linebacker DeMario Davis. “They were right there on the 1-yard line. I don’t know what they were thinking, but they went for it and we were able to rise to the challenge.”
The Jets got out to an early 3-0 lead following a blocked punt, and led for practically the whole game. However as the clock was winding down it looked as if the Jets had let victory slip through their fingers. Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass to TE Levine Toilolo to give the Falcons a 28-27 lead with 1:54 remaining in the game — thanks in part to a 4th down penalty that gave the Falcons an automatic first down from inside the Jets 5-yard line.
But, the Jets weren’t quite finished, and following the Falcons score, Geno Smith responded to Matty-Ice’s late touchdown pass with an ice cold drive of his own. The rookie led the Jets down the field in 8 plays with short, accurate, low risk passes to put Nick Folk in position to kick a 44-yard game winning field goal as time expired.
“Two minutes is plenty of time,” Smith said after the game. “All we needed was a field goal in that situation so I was just sticking to my reads, sticking to my fundamentals.”
Apparently unfazed by the occasion — facing a pre-season Superbowl favorite on national television — rookie Quarterback Geno Smith led the Jets on three flawless touchdown drives: the first a 20-yard strike to TE Jeff Cumberland down the middle of the field; the second a 16 yard check-down to WR Jeremy Kerely in the flat, who then made a great play to avoid a tackle and dive for the pylon; and finally a beautifully lofted pass to TE Kellen Winslow Jnr in the back corner of the endzone, which give the Jets a 27-14 lead.
“I thought he did an outstanding job for us throughout the entire game,” Ryan said of his rookie quarterback’s performance.
“The biggest thing I’m proud of is we did not turn the football over,” Ryan said. “We were not reckless. We were just the opposite — we were fearless — and that’s how we have to play.”
The win leaves the Jets with a 3-2 record heading into next week’s game against the winless Pittsburgh Steelers in New York.