After a tumultuous first summer in the NFL, Geno Smith came up big for what he termed as the "biggest day of his life." He received his first NFL start, winning the Jets' starting quarterback job almost by default after incumbent Mark Sanchez injured his shoulder during the third preseason game. After a shaky start, Smith led the Jets to a come-from-behind victory over the Bucs.
One of Smith's biggest adjustments going from WVU to New York was playing more under center and the footwork and timing that went with it. The Jets helped to alleviate some of that by putting in him in the shotgun regularly and sometimes in the pistol. During the second quarter, the Jets began to play "fast" as Smith did under Dana Holgorsen at WVU.
Smith came out firing on his first drive after a Bucs punt, completing a 26-yard pass to Jeremy Kerley. The Jets then dug deep into their playbook and ran back-to-back Wildcat plays, leading to a Jets' punt.
The Bucs took over, and in a wild play, QB Josh Freeman ended up kicking the ball out of the back of the endzone for a safety to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. Freeman settled in after that and guided the Bucs for a 5 play, 44-yard drive that resulted in a Mike Williams TD reception.
On the drive that bridged the first and second quarters, Smith led the Jets downfield, going 3 of 5 passing for 37 yards and a 13-yard scramble that picked up a first down. The drive stalled out, resulting in a field goal.
After a Bucs punt, the Jets got the ball back deep in their own territory. On first down, Smith dropped back to pass, facing a heavy rush. As he raised his arm to fire a pass, the ball was knocked loose by LB Mason Foster. The Bucs recovered, and RB Doug Martin punched the ball in on the next play to put raise the score to 14-5.
The Jets got the ball back, and went to the hurry-up offense. Smith looked comfortable, hitting his receivers. On 2nd and 7 at the Bucs 40-yard line, Smith lofted a soft pass that was intercepted by Lavonte David. Josh Freeman gave it back to the Jets a few plays later by throwing a pick of his own.
With less than a minute to play in the half, Smith had his two best plays. On 2nd and 16 at the Bucs 25, Smith danced around the pocket before firing a 18-yard pass over the middle to Kellen Winslow. On the next play, Smith hit Winslow again in the crease for a 7-yard TD. The first of Smith's career.
The two teams went into halftime with the Bucs leading 14-12.
Going into the fourth quarter, the score remained the same. Smith settled in, and looked comfortable leading the Jets down the field on a 14-play, 52-yard drive, ending in the go-ahead field goal to put the Jets ahead 15-14. He went 5 of 7 passing on that drive for 51 yards.
Freeman and the Bucs drove down the field reciprocated with a field go of their own to go back on top. On the drive, the Jets coaching staff let time run off the clock by not being on top of things and calling timeouts quickly after plays ended.
Smith got the ball back in his hands with :34 left on the clock. After an incompletion on first down, Smith completed a 25-yard pass again to Winslow to get to the 45-yard line. On the next play, Smith was flushed out the pocket and scrambled for 10 yards before getting hit late out of bounds by Lavonte David. After a 15-yard personal foul penalty, the Nick Folk hit the game-winning field goal.
The Jets won the game 18-17. Smith finished 24 of 38 for 256 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 INT and 1 fumble. He led the Jets in rushing with 6 carries for 47 yards.
Keith Tandy did not record any stats for Tampa Bay. Ellis Lankster had one tackle on special teams (pictured).
After some initial jitters, Smith calmed down in his first start. From the mid-second quarter on, he looked poised and didn't panic. He took several big hits from the Bucs defensive linemen and linebackers, but he didn't let the knocks phase him. He managed the game, and led the Jets to a comeback.
The Jets go on the road next week to Foxboro to take on the Patriots.