Admit it, you were cursing Rex Ryan and his overrated, un-clutch defense after Tampa Bay took a 17-15 lead with 34 seconds left. A terrific all around effort from his unit and an encouraging debut from Geno Smith was about to go to waste because of one ill-timed blitz and one missed tackle. The media would pile on and revel in the Jets 0-1 start. Yet, today wasn’t a day for the “LOLJETS” – Today was a day for Rex and his team to pull a victory out of thin air and let Jets fans have something to smile about. Yes, they got a major hand from a poorly coached, undisciplined and overrated Tampa team but wins are wins and we’ll take them all.
It was a bizarre and thrilling finish at MetLife today. Smith took over at the 20 yard line with the previously mentioned 34 seconds left, hooked up with Kellen Winslow Jr for a 25 yard completion and then took off around the right end for a 10 yard gain, when he was inexplicably hit late by LaVonte David, knocking the Jets within Nick Folk’s field goal range. Like he was two times earlier in the game, Folk was money. Jets win. Unbelievable. It was eerily reminiscent of the type of victory they used to pull out back in the good old Rex Ryan days.
Let’s start with the defense, which was borderline dominant. Tampa scored two touchdowns, one of the drives started at the Jets 44 yard line and one started at the Jets 5 yard line. They held Doug Martin to 65 yards rushing on 2.7 yards per carry. The defensive line was everywhere. Muhammad WIlkerson had a sack, Sheldon Richardson had 7 tackles and .5 sacks, Damon Harrison finished with 6 tackles and a TFL and Antwan Barnes grabbed a sack and a pair of tackles. Tampa’s offense was consistently disrupted by the Jets upfront, which helped cover for a somewhat disappointing game from both Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner. Josh Freeman was flustered for most of the day, finishing with a completion percentage below 50 and a brutal interception to Dawan Landry, which help set up the Jets only touchdown.
On the other side of the football, Smith ended up 24/38, with 256 yards, a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and 47 yards rushing. It was an impressive start to his Jets career as Smith got better in the second half and recovered from a pair of early turnovers to lead the Jets to a win. He showed a good feel on when to run and flexed his arm strength, particularly when working the football to Kellen Winslow Jr (7 receptions, 79 yards, 1 TD) who was the Jets best pass catcher on the field today. Smith had no support in the running game, as Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory combined for 44 yards on 22 carries. Powell did chip in 35 receiving yards. Stephen Hill was also impressive in the short and intermediate passing game with 6 receptions for 39 yards.
Overall, the most positive takeaways from today are that the Jets defense has the potential to be very, very good primarily because of their defensive line depth. Freeman isn’t a good quarterback but shutting down Martin and that running game is nothing to sneeze at. Smith had a better than expected debut, showing the physical ability we knew he had but paired with a sense of calm and confidence. The Jets passing offense could be better than expected, especially if Winslow stays healthy and Santonio Holmes (1 reception, 13 yards) continues to work his way back.
It is funny to read the media lavish praise on Greg Schiano and tear down Rex Ryan. Schiano has a more talented team than Ryan but watched his squad rack up three personal fouls, constantly be unprepared in the huddle for the Jets defense and generally be a disorganized mess. Ryan schemed a way to get a week 1 victory for a team who is considered by many to be the worst in football. Geno Smith was the most questioned quarterback heading into today’s game but he outplayed Freeman, who looked like Mark Sanchez in a smaller media market…enjoy him, Darrelle.
People will say the Jets got lucky. People will say Tampa’s isn’t a good team anyway. Whatever. A win is a win. 1-0.