We received timely efforts all around on offense and defense in pulling out the 18-17 opening-day win over the Buccaneers, but none of it would have mattered without some opportune thumps by the Jets' kickers.
Nick Folk was in the spotlight with his two field goals in the game's last 5:05, each one giving the Jets a one-point lead and the second one, from 48 yards, providing the margin of difference in the Green & White's first one-point win at home on opening day in franchise history.
"After Geno ran out of bounds, I was already running out there for a long one," Folk said of Geno Smith's 10-yard scramble that got a bonus 15 yards tacked on due to LB Lavonte David's late hit out of bounds. "I think it was going to be a 63-yarder, but then I saw the flag. So on the kick I just tried to make it like an extra point. Rob [Malone, holder] and Tanner [Purdum, snapper] did a great job and those guys up front blocked real well for me. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was good."
Folk should know the feeling. He's hit five game-winning field goals as the Jets kicker since 2010, and he remains one of the NFL's top fourth-quarter kickers. You can argue what it was that has enabled him to maintain that edge coming into this season, but arguably it might have something to do with his attitude toward having to defeat not one but two veteran kickers to hold on to this job.
"That was John [Idzik]'s mantra all along, at camp, at every position," he said. "It was that way for at least the first three weeks of the preseason, and there was still a few guys who were still competing in Week 4."
Malone, Folk's fellow footman, had to defeat his own competition in Ryan Quigley, which he did. Today he hit two beautiful pooches but two less than top-notch full-leg punts in his first four tries. Then came Punt No. 5.
"I told him to go out there and 'just be smooth, be you,' " Folk counseled.
"The game plan was to get it off as fast as you can," Malone said of this kick. "Thankfully I got it off quick and I connected with it. Thankfully it stayed up there and then kind of kept rolling."
And rolling. Isaiah Trufant arrived just a tick late from keeping it from being a touchback. But as Folk said, "He would've preferred an 83-yard punt downed at the 1, but an 84-yard punt and a 64-yard net, we'll take that any day of the week."
Yes, that's correct. Malone's 84-yard punt was the second-longest in franchise history, trailing only the legendary 98-yard Steve O'Neal punt in Denver in 1969, and thus the longest at home. It was also the longest in the NFL since 2002.
Most important, it "flipped the field." The Jets were at their 16, then suddenly the Bucs were at their 20. They also had to punt, and the fight was on into the fourth quarter, which once again was Folk's quarter to strut his stuff.
LBs David Harris and Demario Davis and rookie DE Sheldon Richardson led the Jets with seven tackles each. Antwan Barnes got his first sack as a Jet and has 19.5 sacks in his last 39 games, an eight-sacks-a-game pace. Muhammad Wilkerson also had a sack while Richardson and Calvin Pace split the last takedown of Josh Freeman. Ellis Lankster had a game-high two special-teams tackles, including an "atomic piledriver" tackle of Ahmad Black on a punt return early in the fourth period.
Besides Mangold, TE Jeff Cumberland
and WR Jeremy Kerley
were both cleared to return and made it back on the field after taking hard shots from Tampa Bay defenders that were flagged. ... The Bucs helped out the Jets cause with 13 penalties for 102 yards. Their nine first-half penalties tied for the most in the first half by a Jets opponent since 1970. The last time an opponent had more than 13 flags in a Jets home game was New England's 14 penalties in 1990.