The Atlanta Falcons' slogan for the past few years has been "Rise Up!" But the Jets did an excellent job of elevating themselves with their scintillating and surprising — to many but not to themselves — 30-28 Monday Night Football victory in the Georgia Dome tonight.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, absolutely we knew it was going to be a tough game," head coach Rex Ryan said. "I'm glad we won this way because you know, it took every *one of us. And it wasn't that you leaned on one side or the other side,whatever, it took *every one of us and we played fearless."
The game was won on Nick Folk's 43-yard field goal as time expired after Geno Smith led the Jets down the field on an eight-play, 55-yard march with 4-for-4 passing after the Falcons had finally taken the lead on a pair of long touchdown drives orchestrated by QB Matt Ryan.
Along the way, Smith rose up with three touchdown passes, no turnovers and 16-for-20 passing for 199 yards, all good for a 147.7 passer rating.
We as a team also rose up from a lackluster road trip to Tennessee with a win at Atlanta and a recently dreary away portfolio (5-14 if you include the 2010 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh) with one of the most memorable road wins in Green & White history.
And we lifted our record to 3-2 and moved on up the AFC East standings, equaling the Dolphins' record and trailing the 4-1 Patriots by just a game with Sunday's big Marty Lyons/Ring of Honor ceremony highlighting our return to MetLife Stadium against the winless Steelers.
"We're led by a bunch of tough, wily veterans," the rookie QB said. "The offensive line, they play great week in and week out. They're really the unsung heroes of this game. The wide receivers were getting open. We just felt good in the flow of the game and continued to play ball. We didn't let the crowd or anything affect us."
After the defense stopped the Falcons, the offense got another short field to work with when Jeremy Kerley's 24-yard punt return plus 15 yards for P Matt Bosher's horsecollar set up the Jets at the Atlanta 23.
Kellen Winslow was in and out of the lineup with a knee injury that had been bothering him during the week, but on third-and-goal at the 1, he was ready to step up with a 1-yard tiptoe catch on the side of the end zone off of Smith's rollout toss.
The Falcons, against the ropes, came back hard with their two drives, ending in TDs by RB Jacquizz Rodgers and TE Levine Toilolo, to take a 28-27 lead with 1:54 to go.
Right where the Jets wanted them.
"Two minutes is plenty of time," Smith said of the final drive in a post-game interview with Bob Wischusen. "All we needed was a field goal in that situation so I was just sticking to my reads, sticking to my fundamentals."
Matt Ryan came up short in the end, despite a monster 36-for-45, 319-yard passing game with two TD passes and no INTs of his own.
Folk continued to be perfect with his 10th field goal in 10 tries, this one from 36 yards out, to open our lead back to six at 20-14 in the final minute of the third quarter. And the fourth-quarter stage was set.
"I think the team as a whole is getting that [can-do feeling]," Folk said. "We showed we can start pretty fast tonight. The first half we played great. We had maybe one or two hiccups in the second half. They scored 28 points. You'd like to do a little better but they've got a pretty prolific offense. But we made them fight for it at the end and it shows the resilience of this team to just come down there and get the win"
An Inspiring First Half
The Falcons started the game on offense and moved into Jets territory with Ryan passes and Rodgers runs. But the drive stalled and then we dealt the home team its first adversity. Antonio Allen burst through and blocked Matt Bosher's punt, the first block since Joe McKnight vs. Dallas on opening night 2011 and the first on the road since Eric Smith at Miami in '10.
That started us on a 40-yard drive to Nick Folk's 22-yard field goal. The kick made Nick 9-for-9 this season, marked the first first-quarter points against the Falcons this season, and gave us our first lead ever in the Georgia Dome after three losses and our first lead in the city of Atlanta since '86.
The Falcons weren't staggered long. They drove 80 yards on 10 plays, the capper a Matt Ryan shovel pass to Jason Snelling for the 4-yard go-ahead touchdown two plays into the second period.
But the Jets had an appropriate response, moving 67 yards to the second Smith-to-Jeff Cumberland touchdown connection in three quarters. This one went for 20 yards over LB Joplo Bartu and made it 10-7 in our favor. That makes it five Cumberland TDs since 2012.
A Sheldon Richardson third-down sack of Ryan set up our third scoring drive of the night, a head-spinning three-play, 66-yard bolt to Smith's 16-yard TD strike to Jeremy Kerley, who spun away from his defender and dived for the pylon and the 17-7 lead with 7:19 left in the half.
It was the first time we scored on our first three possessions since the 2008 Sunday night overtime win at New England.
Atlanta was not taking this lying down, even though the Falcons fans were not happy with the 10-point deficit. Ryan led his offense from his 24 to first-and-goal at the Jets 4 in the final minute of the half.
But the Jets weren't budging. A lost yard on a run, two Ryan passes to the 1 and a pass interference call on Demario Davis in the end zone gave the Falcons first-and-goal with one second left in the half. Rodgers was swarmed by a Jets posse led by Richardson for no gain, and we took a stunning 17-7 lead into our Georgia Dome locker room at the half.
It was our largest halftime lead on the road since another inspirational game, the 2010 AFC Divisional Round playoff game at New England, when we took a 14-3 lead at the half en route to the 28-21 victory.
"It was just a bounceback for us," Richardson said of the victory. "We had a tough loss last week. We most definitely came with it this week. Everybody was clicking. The defense finished kind of sloppy but we'll tighten it up next week, we most definitely will."