EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – There were 10 minutes left in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders when Geno Smith sensed the pocket collapsing and took off.
He darted across midfield, past a diving defender and along the sideline for 32 yards and a key first down. Just before the play ended, however, he made a telling decision. A decision his running back would later call, “dangerous.”
The young quarterback opted not to run out of bounds and instead lowered his right shoulder – his throwing shoulder – and embraced the contact.
It was a play that embodied the Jets 37-27 win over the Raiders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, a game that the Jets won, in part, because of Smith’s legs and his refusal to go down without a fight.
“We needed that in the worst way, to say the least,” said head coach Rex Ryan after his team’s first win in four weeks.
The Jets are now 5-2 at home and 6-7 on the season, still alive in the AFC playoff hunt.
Smith bounced back from his midseason struggles in a big way, completing 64 percent of his passes for 219 yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown.
He kept the Raiders alert with his legs, rushing for 50 yards off designed runs, like his 8-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, and extended plays, like his 32-yard breakaway in the fourth.
“I think the difference was just eliminating the indecision in my game,” said Smith. “A lot of things are happening to me for the first time. That’s not to make an excuse, but sometimes I second-guess myself and that always hurts especially a quarterback.”
Smith did throw an ugly interception halfway through the first quarter but rebounded nicely, throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Jeremy Kerley on the next possession. It was the team’s first offensive touchdown in five games and 138 pass attempts.
The rookie did mention he felt like he had something to prove, which played into his decision to take that hit instead of going out of bounds.
“I can’t explain why. It was kind of instinct,” he said. “I think part of it was me trying to send a message to my teammates, to everyone, that I’m their quarterback, that I’m a tough guy, that I’m going to stay in there.”
Ryan wasn’t pleased with Smith’s decision but praised his competiveness.
Running back Chris Ivory, who rushed for 76 yards, including a powerful 15-yard touchdown called the decision, “Kind of dangerous, especially for a quarterback.”
But for once, the Jets young quarterback kept them in a game instead of taking them out of one, and that’s a step in the right direction.
Punter Ryan Quigley pinned the Raiders down at the two-yard line, setting up safety Antonio Allen for a blocked a punt touchdown, and kicker Nick Folk (now 28-for-29 this season) added three field goals.
The defense, the team’s supposed strength, were the weak link, allowing 27 points, 383 yards of offense and two long touchdowns.
The first came on a 63-yard run by Raider’s running back Marcel Reese and the second on a 48-yard pass from quarterback Matt McGloin to Rod Streater. The latter occurred when cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Ed Reed collided, paving the way for Streater, untouched, to the end zone.
Reed, however, did get his first win and interception as a member of the Jets.
Traditionally, the day after a win this late in the season would be dubbed “victory Monday,” a day for the players to rest.
But Ryan and his team, like their quarterback late in fourth quarter, have opted to lower their shoulder and press on.
“I mentioned it, I looked, and I’m like, ‘Nah, let’s not do that, let’s go to work,’” Ryan said about starting preparation for the Carolina Panthers on Monday. “Everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s go to work.’ And that’s what we have to do.”