After all the rumblings in New York that Geno Smith was a disaster and totally ill-prepared to lead an NFL team–the rookie quarterback made a nice account of himself in the Jets’ season-opener, a stunning 18-17 last-second victory over Tampa Bay.
Smith, who opened training camp in competition with incumbent and now-injured starter Mark Sanchez, went 24-for-38 for 256 yards, with a touchdown, an interception and a fumble. He also had 47 yards rushing and set up the game-winning field goal by drawing a personal foul penalty in the waning seconds.
Down by two with just seconds left, Smith scrambled for 10 yards before running out of bounds. However, the Buccaneers’ Levonte David pushed him when he clearly was out of bounds, drawing the 15-yard penalty, setting up Nick Folk’s 48-yard field goal with two seconds left.
“I’m never going to panic,” Smith said afterward. “It’s a game, it’s something that I’ve been playing my entire life, I’ve been in that situation plenty of times.”
Not exactly. This was his first NFL game. In New York. And after a preseason effort that, when he was healthy, did not inspire confidence.
“We knew that he’s a much better quarterback than he showed in that one preseason game when he was hobbling around,” Jets’ coach Rex Ryan said, referring to Smith’s three-interception performance against the Giants. “I think where he really helped us, he ran, he made some big plays running.”
Smith was much better and his poise shone through.
It was not a super play that saved the day for the Jets, but it was one that Ryan said Smith made happen.
“No question,” Ryan said. “They had everybody back in coverage, they were deep down the field. At the time we knew we needed to make a play and he did. He stepped up, presence of mind, he was running like crazy and got out of bounds.”
“I just go out there and I told those guys ‘it’s never over,’ ” Smith said. “I was on the sideline talking to Kellen (Winslow Jr.) and we were going over situations. Talked with Willie Colon and telling those guys just, ‘Hey, give me some extra protection and we’ll find a way,’ and that’s what we did.”