Sunday afternoon's matchup against the Dolphins was an away game for the Jets, but it was a "home" game for Miami native Geno Smith, and we all know how much better the rookie QB has played at home.
"Playing well today was awesome," Smith said after the Jets prevailed over the 'Fins, 20-7. "Getting that win was awesome. I think our entire team played a phenomenal game. I was off in many areas, but the team picked me up."
If today was Smith "off in many areas," it's scary to think how good he could be when he's on.
His 83.9 passer rating (17-for-27, 190 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) was the second-highest of his rookie season in an away game, and it was his second road game this year without turning the ball over.
"If I don't force things, if I take care of the ball, if I'm just smart with the ball," Smith said, "we'll always have a chance in the end with this defense."
For as good as he was through the air, however, many of Geno Smith's best plays were made on the ground. He surpassed the 40-yard rushing mark for the fourth consecutive game, and he scored his first road rushing touchdown (sixth overall) on a 7-yard third-down run in the closing seconds of the opening half.
"He really puts it out there," T D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "Today was a test and he refused to be rattled. The one play he tried to knock a DB down. Another play he vaulted the line. With a guy like that willing to sacrifice his body and get in the trenches, great things will happen."
The vault that Brick referred to came on the tail end of a second-quarter drive. It was third-and-2 from the Miami 6 when Smith left his feet and plunged for the goal line, ultimately picking up the first down but falling a yard short of scoring after flipping over. DT-FB Sheldon Richardson finished it off with a run up the gut for his second touchdown of the season, tying the game, 7-7, and capping a perfect 5-for-5 passing series for Smith.
The DB knockdown came early in the game, and another attempted knockdown came on that aforementioned touchdown run. Smith was being held up a few feet short of the end zone with only a few ticks on the first-half clock remaining when RB Bilal Powell came surging off of his initial block and shoved his teammate in for the score.
"That was a huge shot. That was a big play," Smith said. "Very smart on his behalf to get us in there. I was really struggling right there with that linebacker and he gave me an extra push."
"He wasn't going to be denied," head coach Rex Ryan said of his rookie QB's touchdown. "He just willed it. He's a tough guy. He just made an unbelievable run to get in that end zone. He carried our team on his back and that was awesome."
Geno and his teammates learned of Rex's return to the Jets for the 2014 season immediately after the 20-7 victory, and, said Smith, the locker room atmosphere was as if they'd won the Super Bowl.
"His passion, his dedication — he's really a guy that gives his all to this game," Smith said. "As players we enjoy that, we appreciate that because we do the same thing. When you have a coach like that who really leaves it out on the field without even playing a snap, you want to go out there and you want to play hard for him."
That's coming from a player who was benched at halftime by that very coach just a few weeks ago, Dec. 1, against these same Dolphins.
"After the benching I had to dig deep and I did a lot of soul searching," he said. "It's the first time it ever happened to me in my life, and quite honestly I don't like it, but I know that it's a part of decision-making and coaching so I just had to dig deep and continue to believe in myself."
It's hard to deny that Smith has shown significant progress this year. In our first quarter of the season, Smith turned the ball over 11 times. In his four games since being benched, he's committed just two giveaways.
"It's good for this team and good for this organization to end off on a good note," Smith said. "Obviously we wanted to go to the playoffs and we had bigger goals in mind, but it means a lot to this team that we withstood all the negative talk and we just continued to work hard, we continued to get better, and we had a really good showing in December."