Predictably, Geno Smith's rookie season has been a roller-coaster ride. In the past three games, Smith has played well, horribly and great in that order. Monday night was a great one.
In Week 4, the Jets were blown out on the road by the Tennessee Titans. Smith had four turnovers in the game that led to the lopsided defeat. He did not protect the ball, resulting in two fumbles, and he tried to force the ball in the air, throwing two interceptions. The Titans stayed in the Jets backfield, leaving Smith rattled.
Going into this season, the Jets foe on Monday night, the Atlanta Falcons, were considered by some to be the favorite to win the NFC South. They entered the game on Monday night on a two-game losing streak. Despite that, they were still the favorites to win the game.
The Jets received the ball on the Atlanta 44-yard line after a blocked punt. The question of what the Jets would to to simplify the game for Smith was answered early in the form of simple, controlled passes and a dash of the zone-read. They also mixed in some Wildcat. With that script, Smith led the Jets down the field to take an early 3-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Smith threw two beautiful touchdown passes to TE Jeff Cumberland and WR Jeremy Kerley for 20 and 16 yards respectively to put the Jets ahead 17-7 at halftime.
The Falcons bounced back during the second half to take the lead late in the fourth quarter led by Matt Ryan, a.k.a.- Matty Ice. He threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons ahead 28-27.
The Jets got the ball back with less than two minutes to play. Smith calmly led the Jets down the field on a 7 play 55-yard drive that included two passes to Stephen Hill and one to Kerley. He looked confident and poised as he moved the Jets into field goal range.
Time expired as Nick Folk made a 43-yard field goal. The Jets won 30-28.
For the Jets, it was a total team effort. The Falcons had some injuries coming into the game, but still had Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez for Ryan to target. The Jets defense held when they needed to, particularly on a goal-line stand to end the first half.
The Jets' offensive line has taken much of the brunt of criticism for allowing Smith to get sacked and pressured so much to start the season. The line play was much better on Monday night. Smith also had a full complement of healthy running backs that took some of the pressure off the passing game.
He ended the game going 16 for 20 passing for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns, no sacks, no INTs with a 147.7 quarterback rating. He became just the second rookie quarterback in the 44 year history of Monday Night Football to win a game on the road.
"Let 'er rip and play with no conscience," Smith said, summingup the shift in offensive philosophy from last week to this.
"I thought he did an outstanding job for us throughout the entire game," Ryan said.
The Jets return home next week to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.