The game clock read 13:04 when QB Matt Simms lined up under center for his NFL debut.
Simms took the reins with the Jets down an insurmountable 40 points following Geno Smith's second pick-six of the game and, while the hole was far too deep to climb out of, the first-year QB out of Tennessee showed heart and hustle in leading the troops toward the finish line.
"I was very excited to go in, obviously not under those circumstances," Simms said. "Still, it was a good experience to get out there and just see the field, see the defense, get hit for the first time since preseason. It was a good experience and now I've just got to go back to work."
In relief of Smith, Matt Simms went 3-for-7 for 17 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Smith ended the game 20-for-30 with 159 yards, no TDs and 2 INTs, both returned for touchdowns. Both Simms and Smith had QB ratings in the low 50s.
Simms added a team-high 35 rushing yards on just three carries, but the numbers don't tell the story.
On fourth-and-11, Simms received the shotgun snap and tried to find an open receiver downfield before taking off down the right sideline in an attempt to scramble for the first down. Still needing a couple more yards to keep the drive alive, he was running head-on toward Bengals defenders Brandon Ghee and Jayson DiManche. So Simms left his feet and attempted to use the momentum of a hard hit to propel him forward.
"I was excited to be there, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision," he said. "I didn't have much time to think about it, running away from people trying to rip my head off. That was my first instinct. I thought he was going to go low on me and he made a good play."
Simms was propelled forward, but not forward enough, as he landed vertically and the ball was spotted just inches short of the first down mark.
"I just can't believe that when I jumped I landed straight down instead of going forward that extra inch or two," he said.
The result of the play was a turnover on downs, but the Green & White players and coaches won't soon forget Simms giving up his body for the team at a seemingly meaningless point of the game.
"I'm probably going to get a few messages from my father [CBS analyst and former Giants QB Phil Simms] telling me to be a little smarter in that situation," he said. "I just kind of wanted to show everyone that I'm going to sacrifice and play hard and play till the last play.
An impressive preseason, during which he completed 74.6% of his passes (44-for-59) for 478 yards, a TD and no INTs, earned him the No. 3 QB spot over Greg McElroy, but No. 5 soon became No. 2 on our depth chart with Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury. Until today, his assignment on Sundays had been simply to hold the clipboard.
In addition to Simms, rookie LB Troy Davis, also an undrafted free agent, played his first game as a pro today. Although he was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Oct. 12, for the first time he was one of 46 Jets active for gameday.
He contributed on special teams with two tackles, one on punt coverage and one on kick coverage, and he also fielded a short kickoff with 16 seconds remaining in the first half and returned it 7 yards. And although it wasn't his first game played, TE Zach Sudfeld recorded his first NFL start in the Jets' two-TE alignment and later his first NFL catches. On second-and-6 near midfield early in the third quarter, the 6'7" tight end went down and got a low but well-thrown Smith pass for 5 yards. He added another 5-yard reception on a third-and-4 throw from Simms later in the game.