There were many new elements to the 2013 Jets at MetLife Stadium today, but the one on everyone's radar was how No. 7 would do making his first pro start in his new team's season opener.
"Holy cow! Man, we'll take it," Rex Ryan said in his postgame remarks. "I thought Geno did a really nice job. Where he really helped us was when he ran. He made some big plays running. ... He had to make some plays and quite honestly those plays definitely helped us win the game."
"It's great to come home with a victory," Smith said. "Like I said, it's great to have teammates who support me, who have my back and are going to go out there and compete with me to the final whistle. And that's what we did today."
Smith finished 24-for-38 passing for 256 yards, one TD, one INT, one fumble and five sacks. He also had 47 yards on six carries to become the first Jets QB to lead the team in rushing since Ray Lucas in 1999 against the Giants. Kellen Winslow led the Jets with seven receptions and 79 yards.
After Folk gave the Jets a 15-14 edge with his 30-yarder with 5:05 to play, the Jets defense had a chance to close it down after playing strong the entire day in holding Martin in check limiting him to 65 yards on 24 carries. The D yielded a 37-yard completion from Josh Freeman to Vincent Jackson against Dawan Landry's coverage to set up Rian Lindell's game-winning 37-yard field goal with 0:34 to play as the Bucs took a 17-15 lead.
"I wasn't looking for it. Actually I was just playing situational football," Smith said of the hit. "It was bad on that guy's part to cause that penalty, but it was good for us. It gave us some extra room and Nick came up big as he always does."
Folk also beat the Cowboys with his 50-yard kick on opening day 2011 and is the second-most-accurate NFL kicker since 1991 in the fourth quarter.
So these new Jets head to New England for their Thursday night meeting with the Patriots, who scratched out a 23-21 win over Buffalo to also start 1-0.
Defense Gets This Party Started
The Jets didn't need any offense to take their first lead of the season. Tampa QB Josh Freeman, deep in his own territory, wasn't ready for Jeremy Zuttah's shotgun snap, which skittered past him to the back of the end zone. Freeman kicked it over the end just ahead of LB Antwan Barnes for a safety — our eighth in the last 45 games dating to the 2010 season — and a 2-0 lead.
The Bucs responded on a half-field drive to Freeman's 17-yard strike to Mike Williams in front of first-round rookie Dee Milliner for a 7-2 lead late in the first. Folk continued his early-season excellence with his first field goal, of 43 yards, and a 7-5 deficit in the bottom of the third — er, make that with 11 minutes left in the first half.
Then Geno made his first rookie mistake. On his first play from the Jets 11, he dropped back, rolled left and tried to find a receiver. But he was converged on by LB Mason Foster and DT Akeem Spence. Foster forced the fumble on Smith's backswing, Spence recovered at the 5.
One play later, Doug Martin, bottled up most of the game, was poured out of the bottle for a 5-yard dash for the end line — the shortest 1-play touchdown drive by an opponent since the Titans went 1 yard on one play in 2006 — and a 14-5 lead.
Smith then threw an interception on an overthrow under duress and things weren't looking bright on this sunny day in the Meadowlands with 4:05 left in the first half.
Geno Back on the Beam
But as quickly as that, Smith was back on the beam. First Landry snapped up a Freeman overthrow hurried by Isaiah Trufant's edge blitz. Then Geno found his receiver, Winslow, on back-to-back plays — for 18 yards in a crowd to to get first-and-goal, then slightly behind but oh-so-catchable in the end zone for the 7-yard score, which all in one was Smith's first pro touchdown drive, his first TD throw and Winslow's first TD catch in the green and white. And suddenly the Jets trailed by only 14-12 at the half.
"I don't like to brag about myself. Resilience is something you have to have at this position," Smith said. "When we have situations where we have loss of yards — which by the way we had too many today — or we have turnovers or penalties, it's never hanging your head, never getting down on someone. Instead, we look at the positives and try to get it back."
A scoreless stretch through the third quarter and on into the final frame heightened the tension, especially for Jets fans when C Nick Mangold walked slowly off the field and then to the locker room. But Mangold soon returned with a sleeve on his arm to resume his role in the pivot. And the Jets were headed down the home stretch of their winning, then losing, then ultimately winning opening-day effort over the Buccaneers.
And thus setting up the first Patriots game of the season. How will the Jets prepare during the short week?
"Watch film-film-film and take care of your body," said Winslow. "Winning makes it way easier. Winning cures everything."