East Rutherford, NJ — When rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson saw his quarterback get shoved out of bounds in the final seconds of Sunday’s season opener, he had some choice words for the Tampa Bay defender.
“There was a little explicit language towards the guy that hit him. I’m just going to leave it at that,” said Richardson, who was standing on the Jets’ sideline when Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David tackled quarterback Geno Smith as he was falling out of bounds.
“Then I saw the flag go and I didn’t care anymore. Picked my boy up, we kicked the field goal and we won.”
It was Nick Folk’s 48-yard field goal with two seconds remaining that won the game for the Jets, 18-17, at MetLife Stadium, but it was Smith’s scramble and David’s ill-advised personal foul penalty that made it all possible.
After dominating for most of the game, the Jets defense, specifically safety Dawan Landry who whiffed on a tackle, gave up a crucial 37-yard completion to Vincent Jackson with under two minutes remaining. The Bucs then hit a 37-yard field goal, all but sealing the second opening day defeat in the Rex Ryan era.
But down by two with 29 seconds left, Smith hit tight end Kellen Winslow with a 25 yard pass. Then, after stopping the clock, Smith scampered out of the pocket to avoid the Tampa Bay pass rush.
With time running out, he tucked the ball and sprinted for the sideline, hoping, perhaps, for one last-ditch attempt at the end zone – that’s when David came flying in and pushed him.
The flags flew and all of a sudden, the Jets had hope.
Richardson was so excited upon seeing the flag that he jumped out onto the field without a helmet, drawing a comment from a familiar face – Darrelle Revis.
“You all the way out on the field aren’t you?” Revis said, to which Richardson responded, “Hey man, we’re trying to win, simple as that.”
Smith’s 10-yard scramble, along with the 15-yard penalty, put the Jets at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line where Folk nailed the game winner.
“At the time I was like, ‘Holy cow! We’ve got a shot,'” said head coach Rex Ryan after seeing the penalty. “I’ll say this, the kid [Smith] showed a great deal of poise.”
Smith finished an up-and-down day completing 63 percent of his passes for 256 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble. He also led the team in rushing with 47 yards on the ground.
He was far from perfect, but Smith showed glimpses of promise, especially in the fourth quarter when he led the team on two scoring drives without turning the ball over. The Jets have to be pleased with Smith’s performance and with the recent reports of Mark Sanchez’s injury — he has a torn labrum and could be out indefinitely — it looks like Smith is in it for the long haul.
After the game, Smith was confident and saying all the right things.
“I feel the same,” he said after being asked about his emotions following his first win as an NFL quarterback. “My emotions never change.”
“It’s good to get a win for the Jets. It’s not about me; it’s about my teammates and about this organization,” he said. “We have to put this one behind us and prepare for a tough game coming up on Thursday night.”
The Jets have a quick turnaround, facing Tom Brady and the rival New England Patriots in Foxborough on Thursday. With all the criticism the Jets have faced recently, a win against the Patriots could be monumental.
“I take heat, there’s no question,” said Ryan after the game. “We’re all taking heat from the outside, but inside our walls we just try to get better every day. We’re competing and we’re building a team. When you go in that locker room you’ll see it.”
The win wasn’t pretty, but it was a win nonetheless, and the Jets, with a new starting quarterback in toe, seem to be gelling in spite of the negativity.
“Whether that’s reported or not to the general population, I don’t know. That’s up to somebody else,” said Ryan of his team’s chemistry. “This team is special. How many wins that is? I don’t know. I don’t know what that will mean. But I know one thing, we’re going for it.”
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