While today was a literal win for the New York Jets, 37-27 over the Oakland Raiders, the more important development was the positive performance of rookie quarterback Geno Smith and rookie cornerback Dee Milliner. Keeping in mind they were playing a mediocre team, the Jets had a strong offensive and special teams performance today, with a disappointing outing defensively. A win is a win and it was nice to see them snap their three game losing streak, especially while putting up nearly twice as many points in a single game than they did the past three games combined.
Smith threw an ugly early interception but was able to bounce back and by the end of the game was playing with much more confidence than we’ve seen from him in over a month. He finished 16/25 for 219 yards with a touchdown and also racked up 50 yards rushing with a touchdown. In terms of running the ball, Smith was decisive and showed excellent agility in the open field, particularly on a 32 yard scamper in the second half. He threw the ball better as the game went on and was very efficient on third down.
The return of a healthy Jeremy Kerley, put together with Santonio Holmes (3 receptions, 55 yards) and Kellen Winslow Jr (3 receptions, 61 yards) also being out there was clearly a boost to the Jets offense. Kerley returned with a bang, finishing with 4 receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Smith floated up a pass into double coverage for Kerley in the end-zone and he went up and made a play for him. It has been a long time since a Jets wide receiver has done that for his quarterback. In that same instance, a player like Stephen Hill goes up to catch the ball with his chest, instead of attacking the ball at the highest point like Kerley did and the ball is intercepted. David Nelson also chipped in 4 receptions for 32 yards, in a balanced performance from the Jets pass catchers.
Chris Ivory further cemented himself as the team’s lead back with 76 yards on 18 yards, including a highlight reel 15 yard touchdown run where he seemed to break a tackle from everybody on the Raiders defense. Outside of a few misses from Brian Winters, who continues to struggle, this was a solid day for the Jets offensive line.
Special teams showed up in a big way today. Antonio Allen (who finally started to get more playing time again on defense, which was much deserved) blocked a punt and fell on it for a touchdown. Ryan Quigley also pinned the Raiders inside the 1 yard line with a punt and the Jets coverage units were very good on both kicks and punts.
After a strong first half, the Jets had a let down in the second half. Their usually dominant run defense allowed a long Marcel Reese touchdown run. They then allowed a long touchdown pass to Rod Streater when Ed Reed took out Antonio Cromartie by accident. Cromartie continued his awful season and it remains a mystery why Darrin Walls does not play over him. At least Rex Ryan cut back Reed’s role on the defense in favor of Allen.
Dee Milliner took a step in the right direction, showing better technique and awareness than we’ve seen in recent weeks. The secondary continues to have issues overall though as this was a tough game for Dawan Landry and there remained breakdowns in the passing game. Oakland should not be able to score 24 second half points on you.
Like we said earlier, a win is a win and we won’t sleep on the Jets beating a team they should at home. However, the schedule gets much tougher in the final 3 weeks. Carolina is one of the league’s best teams and has an elite defense. Cleveland is better than their 4-9 record indicates and also has one of the better defenses in football. Finally, Miami is likely to be playing for a playoff spot in week 17 and always presents a challenge. Let’s see if the Jets can handle a little success and turn some heads next week in Carolina as a heavy underdog.