Last week the turnovers and subsequent points that came from said turnovers doomed the Jets before they ever had a chance. Last night the defense was mostly excellent, though far from perfect, and while the offense wasn’t quite perfect either, it was remarkably efficient and that’s the difference between a losing and winning game.
The defense made a bunch of big plays that kept them in the game, but every time they needed points from the offense they got them, including the final game-winning drive. Santonio Holmes wasn’t available, so there could be no ‘Tone-Time’ to save the day. No, that final drive was Geno’s time.
Geno Smith finished the night 16-20 (80 percent), for 199 yards, (10 yards per completion), three touchdowns and 21 rushing yards on three carries, including a critical eight yard run on the final drive to give the Jets a first down and most important of all, no turnovers.
Smith only had four incompletions, only one was close to getting picked off, but he threw it so hard the defender couldn’t catch it and even though he got sacked four times (one of them was on him not recognizing Osi Umenyiora coming free on a blitz, the others were because of one of the lineman got beat badly, Winters and Ferguson), but even though fans likely gasped in horror half expecting Smith to fumble the ball on one of those sacks, it didn’t happen as Smith took much better care of the ball last night.
As efficient as Smith was on the night, the rushing attack was equally impressive as the Jets rushed for 118 yards on 22 carries (5.4 yards a carry). Powell got the most carries, 12, but only gained 38 yards, but Smith chipped in 21 yards on three carries (7 yards per carry), Chris Ivory earned 27 yards on four carries (6.8 yards per carry) and Mike Goodson flashed a bit of the extra dimension he provides as he rushed for 32 yards on just three carries (10.7 yards per carry).
The Jets only ran 42 total plays last night (20 pass, 22 runs) and scored 30 points, it doesn’t get much more efficient than that.
The Jets built a 17-7 halftime lead with an efficient, mistake-free offensive performance and great defense, including one of the most important drives of the game at the end of the first half. The Falcons got the ball on their own 24-yard line down 10 with 7:19 left in the second half and the proceeded to eat up every last second, but thanks to a big time goal-line stand they had nothing to show for it and basically wasted over seven minutes going into the half.
The Jets then started out the second half playing more conservative then we’ve seen from them this year and when that didn’t work on their first two drives, they opened it up and started putting numbers on the board just when they were needed. After the Jets had forced a turnover, and just missed a couple more and completed the goal-line stand the Falcons offense finally started to find a rhythm with comebacks and underneath/crossing routes as they rallied back from a 13 point deficit, aided by a horrendous phantom call, to take a 28-27 lead with 1:54 left in the game and just when people thought the Jets had choked the game away, Smith lead a perfect eight play, 56 yard drive that was capped off by a 43 yard field goal by ‘Folk Hero’ Nick Folk to cement a Jets road victory.
The Falcons aren’t nearly as good as they have been the past few years, depleted offensive-line, weak pass-rush and running game and Roddy White clearly still isn’t healthy, but between Matt Ryan and Julio Jones the Falcons are still a tough team to beat inside their house, the Georgia Dome and it still amounts to an impressive victory for the Jets.
Geno Smith – See everything above. The kid has the talent and skill set, you can see the huge upside he has particularly with the way he attacks downfield with confidence and handles himself with such poise that he doesn’t ever seem to get rattled. He had a terrible game last week, although his offensive-line didn’t help much, but he shook it off and went into an extremely hostile environment and played a close to perfect game to earn a huge road win. He won’t be this perfect or efficient from here on out, he’ll have a few more games like Tennessee before this year is over, but the potential is obvious, this kid has a chance to be really good.
Jeff Cumberland and Jeremy Kerley – No Holmes, Stephen Hill was invisible until the last drive, but Smith had enough weapons thanks to balance between a strong run game and Cumberland and Kerley who both came up with huge touchdown grabs. Kerley is and has been the Jets most dependable receiver over these past two years, but if the Jets can come to rely on this type of production from Cumberland it certainly improves their chances of playing efficient like they did last night.
Brian Winters – Yeah he got beat silly on one play giving up a sack and we’ll have to look at the All-22 tape to fully grade his performance, but for a rookie in his first game it seemed he had a very solid first start. If nothing else, you didn’t hear his name called for penalties. If Winters can be the player Rex Ryan and the coaching staff think he will (they were absolutely giddy about his potential in training camp before he got injured) it could go a long way to solidifying this offense.
Marty Mornhinweg – He called a hell of a game, yeah there were a few times he maybe should’ve called a run, but that’s Marty, he always has and always will prefer to pass the ball. But he called an excellent balanced game and continues to show creativity in his play-calling Jets fans are only used to seeing from other teams. The touchdown to Kellen Winslow being a perfect example, bring in Sheldon Richardson to get the defense thinking run, send Richardson in the flat where no one will immediately account for him until they realize he’s wide open and just as the safety, William Moore, started to break to cover Richardson Smith dumped a pass right over his head to a now wide open Winslow. Beautiful call, great game plan all around.
Defensive Line – Just going to have to lump all these guys together. Sheldon Richardson continues to amaze and impress, watching his college tape it was easy to know he’d be good, but this good, this early? Hard to imagine anyone expected this, he’s going to be a special player.
Big Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison continued to be a force plugging up the middle in the run game and even managed to create some pressure from inside on a couple of pass plays, was an undrafted free agent, but is playing like the best run-stopping defensive tackle in the league.
And speaking of the best in the league, it was a gross miscalculation that somehow left Muhammad Wilkerson off last year’s Pro-Bowl team, but that fuzzy math will surly be corrected this year as Wilkerson continues to be an absolute beast. He was dominate all night long and with the rest of the help he has on the line you can expect to see more games like that in the future.
The Media – You can see some of the old Rex and old Jets starting to percolate, they kept brushing off the media’s criticisms earlier in the season saying they, “don’t pay attention to what anyone outside says,” which sounds good and all, but is obviously not true as it flies in the face of human nature. The players are starting to speak up and talk back to their doubters, Ryan even made sure to casually remind everyone ESPN ranked the Jets as the worst team in football before the season. The constant belittling of the Jets by the media has clearly contributed to fueling the Jets fire. You never want to admit stuff like that bothers you until you’ve had a chance to prove them wrong and while the Jets still have a long way to go to be a Super Bowl contender they clearly aren’t close to the laughing stock the media has made them out to be.
The Win Was Great and All, But… They need to clean up this missed tackles business, the last few weeks it was the penalties they needed to clean up, they survived them against the Bills but not against the Titans, this week the survived the sloppy tackling, but may not be so lucky in the future. Last night’s win was a total team victory, offense, defense and special teams, but you be certain that Ryan will be focusing on cleaning up the missed tackles in the film room this week.