Updated, 6:10 p.m. ET
Has the era of our long-lost longball returned?
Having asked the provocative question, I'll promptly give you an "It's too early to tell" response. But the results from the Buffalo game were, shall we say, intriguing.
Geno Smith hooked up with Santonio Holmes (69 and 40 yards) and Stephen Hill (51 and 45 yards) for four passes of 40-plus yards. When was the last time a Jets QB and his receivers went 4-for-40 in a game?
If you said Jets vs. Colts, Joe Namath vs. John Unitas, Game 2, 1972, you'd get a green star. Namath that day, in one of the classic passing performances in franchise — indeed, league — history, connected on five 40-plus pass plays — two to TE Rich Caster (79- and 80-yard TDs), two to WR Eddie Bell (65 and 42) and one to RB John Riggins (67).
Since then, no Jets passing game had come close to five in a game and only a few were close to four.
And then Sunday Geno went downtown.
Head coach Rex Ryan said today after the Jets returned to practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center for Sunday's game at Tennessee that he envisioned being more aggressive going downfield this season, and he envisioned it well before the Smith/Mark Sanchez competition broke out after the April draft.
"With the hiring of Marty [Mornhinweg as O-coordinator], that was pretty obvious that we were going to do that," Ryan said, adding that maybe his philosophy had evolved to where he was very receptive to such an offensive approach. "It was more of an attack thing, keep them honest back there or else make them pay for it. If defenses were going to put everybody down in the box to stop the run, make them pay for it. That was certainly evident last week."
"It was the same thing as West Virginia," Smith said after practice. "That's why they brought me in here, because of my ability to throw the ball downfield and be accurate with it. Like I said, we take what the defense gives us."
And Holmes, who had a career-high 154 yards on his five grabs, said his and Smith's field-stretching connections were the kind of thing Mornghinweg "came in preaching."
"That was his reason for coming here," Tone said. "He felt like he had a group of guys that could really make a really big impact for this offense in stretching the ball down the field. That's what we really have to believe in in this offense and I think the guys are believing in his philosophy and what he's bringing to the table for us."
To be sure, Marty, Geno and the Jets needed a little help from the Bills. Their secondary was worse than decimated as S Jairus Byrd and CB Stephon Gilmore were out and reliable CB Leodis McKelvin left early with his own injury.
But even though third-year CB Justin Rogers was the man on the hot seat, Smith still had to make the throws and Holmes and Hill had to reel them in and keep on running after the catch. All of those things came together like few days in Jets or New York Titans passing annals.
That being said, Smith cautioned about going sky-high with all this talk about a rookie QB, a veteran WR with a sore foot, a wily experienced TE in Kellen Winslow and a bunch of young guns that no one outside this team saw coming.
"You don't want to get too far ahead. You have to focus on day by day," Smith said. "We're young guys, we're improving players. We got to come out and practice and prove it in practice before we go out in the games and prove it. That's all I'm trying to focus on, just making sure that Stephen and [Jeremy] Kerley, all the guys know that it takes a ton of practice. We have to be on the same page there first before we can do it in the games."
All true. But for at least this past game, these Jets were on the same page in the history books with another great aerial display in our history, and that's not a bad thing.