Posted October 08, 2013

Geno Smith stars as ‘fearless’ Jets pull off a stunner, beat Falcons

AFC East, New York Jets
Geno Smith

Smith tossed three touchdowns and engineered the game-winning drive Monday night (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Rex Ryan kept repeating one word in his press conference after the Jets’ 30-28 win over Atlanta: “Fearless.”

It was an appropriate assessment of his football team and, more to the point, of his rookie quarterback. Geno Smith found himself on a large stage Monday night with a difficult task before him. On the opposite sideline stood one of the league’s top QBs in Matt Ryan, who had never lost back-to-back games at home.

Smith answered him shot-for-shot all evening, then one-upped the Falcons’ star in the final minute, leading a beautiful drive to set up the game-winning field goal.

“I thought he did an outstanding job for us the entire game,” Ryan said of Smith. “I was impressed with the fact we used how many receivers in that drive. When Geno had the protection, he delivered it.”

By at least one standard, Smith was perfect in the first half. He headed into halftime with a flawless 158.3 QB rating, thanks in no small part to a pair of touchdown passes. The Falcons counter-punched after the break, finally finding a way to dial up some pressure and get in Smith’s grill.

The Jets’ 17-7 lead dwindled, then their 27-14 cushion disappeared entirely. Ryan’s TD toss to Levine Toilolo — of all people — thrust Atlanta in front for the first time in hours, 28-27 with 1:54 left.

Smith never even flinched. He quickly connected on three straight passes for 34 yards — two to Stephen Hill, one to Jeremy Kerley. Then, with Atlanta’s D-line again pushing into the pocket, Smith escaped the rush and outraced Osi Umenyiora to the sideline for a 9-yard pickup.

One more first down after that left Nick Folk with a 43-yarder for the win. He drilled it … and suddenly, the Jets are 3-2 and very much in the playoff hunt behind a rookie QB who’s growing up fast.

“My confidence is always sky high,” Smith told ESPN after the game. “Nothing can bring me down.”

His Week 4 flop certainly could have done just that. Smith turned it over four times in that game, a 38-13 loss to Tennessee, the worst of those miscues coming on a fumble in his own end zone for a Titans touchdown.

FARRAR: Smith’s success in Atlanta started with apology to defense

Smith entered Monday’s game with a whopping 11 turnovers in four games, looking more like the player who failed to separate himself in the Jets’ QB derby during the preseason than one on the verge of a breakthrough.

But football can be a surprising game. Rookies often are the most schizophrenic of all. So just as Smith’s mistake-prone ways seemed ready to threaten any hopes the Jets had of hanging around in the AFC East, he responded with the best performance of his young career.

“It’s a mindset,” Smith said. “I made it my duty to come out here and not put the ball on the ground, not put my team in jeopardy.”

Can Smith harness this effort and carry it forward? If so, then Ryan’s Jets might be a group to be reckoned with over the season’s next three months.

Monday’s win was far from a fluky one. Smith finished the job late, but it was the New York defense that kept the train on its tracks over the first three quarters. Led by Muhammad Wilkerson, rookie Sheldon Richardson and a relentless front, the Jets blew up countless Atlanta plays.

“You know what, I’m glad we won this way,” Ryan said. “I am glad we won this way, because it took every one of us.”

That’s the only way the Jets could have pulled off this surprise. Toss out the records, because the consensus was that the desperate Falcons would find a way to win Monday — find some method to unnerve Smith and keep him stuck in an error-filled nightmare.

“We simply came up short,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith, possibly running out of answers as his team slipped to 1-4, four games back of New Orleans in the NFC South.

FLASHBACK: Distance on fourth-and-one may be short, but the memories are long

There will be plenty of blame to go around in Atlanta, too. The offensive line played well only in spurts, the pass rush was nonexistent in the first half, the secondary did nothing right late, and injuries continued to mount.

All that said, the fact of the matter is that the better team won Monday.

And though Smith may not be the better quarterback, in a comparison with Ryan, he delivered the knockout punch … whereas Ryan’s fourth-quarter heroics could only stagger the visiting Jets.

“For his focus and the rest of our guys,” Ryan said, “we played fearless.”

Because of that, future Jets opponents ought to be a little more nervous to match wits with Smith, Ryan and a team that may have what it takes to prove everyone wrong.

31 comments
BleedPinstripes1
BleedPinstripes1

In the AFC East - why not think playoffs?

Not sure they could stay with Indy and/or KC - but the East?

cFro
cFro

I didn't realize until last night that the Falcons sucked this year.

giltro
giltro

I wonder if Rex Ryan is still enjoying his wife's pretty feet. He has that foot fetish thing. But he should buy her pretty shoes. 

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Is Matty Ice going to be the new Tony Romo?

riley8
riley8

“We simply came up short,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith.  WRONG.  This guy needs to find another job if he thinks they lost simply bc they came up short.  Going for it on 4th down at the end of the 1st half lost the game Smith.  The Falcons are a very talented albeit injure prone team at the moment.  Bad coaching will make sure this team doesn't see the playoffs.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

lose to the jets and you DO suck.  looks like the birds are heading the way of the giants

jimmyjon_55555
jimmyjon_55555

jets looking pretty solid....  and despite the refs giving atlanta 2 extra plays in the redzone.  

modsuperstar
modsuperstar

I'll point the finger at Steven Jackson. Dude is the new Takeo Spikes. While he did make the playoffs in his rookie season as a backup, ever since he's been a #1 his teams have been allergic to actually making the playoffs. He somehow took a perfectly good team with lots of weapons down with him this time in Atlanta, it's pretty amazing.

weir6
weir6

"in his biggest challenge ever, Geno Smith..."


You call the Falcons a challenge?  I'm unfortunately an Atlanta fan, and we are finished.  Poor clock management, and NO PASS RUSH.  So many injuries, we have a team full of backups on the field.  When Geno Smith looks like Peyton Manning, you know the opposing team SUCKS

Jon8
Jon8

Forgetaboutit!! The Jets are not a good football team and will slip precipitously in the second-half of the season!!

j7apple
j7apple

Whats with the Falcons not taking a field goal to end the half? Thats the game right there.

rskins09
rskins09

What's wrong with the Falcons ? ..Just a shell of the way they played last year ..Geno looked a lot better ...

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

Oh come ON...Geno didn't win this game....the Falcons just straight up STINK to high heaven....

TheCatskinner
TheCatskinner

The Jets are one good Geno-smack shy of oblivion.

M20
M20

So much for the preseason narrative on the Jets

DavidP2
DavidP2

@giltro Oh my god, that was hilarious!  (like three years ago)

KevinDoucette
KevinDoucette

@Rickapolis No, Romo is usually good for 95% of a game. He just screws up at the end. Ryan just stinks this year.

jimmyjon_55555
jimmyjon_55555

@Jon8 you can say they will slip but as of now- they are 3-2 and beat last years best team in the NFC at home- yes- this year is different but the jets have a top 5 defense- and top 3 afc rusher...   these things usually spell good team.     

johnvas49
johnvas49

@j7apple Yeah, they were acting as if they were playing the Broncos and needed to keep up touchdown for touchdown.  Really dumb not to take the field goal at the end of the half...

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

@rskins09 This is why I stopped betting. The Falcons should not be losing to the Jets at home. 

jimmyjon_55555
jimmyjon_55555

@btcvsolo really?  matt ryan had a pretty efficient game...  the issue was the jets game plan- take away the run- constant pressure- most everything was underneath.  (less than 10yrds per completion)... and the falcons had 60 yards- a constant theme for the jets defense.  and geno?  3 td passes- on 80% completion.   including a game winning drive?  yeah he sure did beat em- but so did their defense       

jojomogir
jojomogir

@btcvsolo I'm not totally disagreeing with you, but you do have to give him credit for that final drive - that was pretty damn good.

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

@M20 Yeah, last night's win clinched a playoff spot, didn't it?  Wait a minute...

jimmyjon_55555
jimmyjon_55555

@weir6 @rskins09 you know what they say about excuses.  everyone and their mom still picked the falcons.... by alot.  saying that their offense will be too much etc etc... a joke.